Politics at Work – Oh My!! My Three Key Take-Aways

Our country continues to get more divided and polarized around politics. Rhetoric continues to get more explosive as some politicians refer to their fellow Americans as scum and vermin. Not only are we getting divided around issues of race, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, but even current events such as the Israeli – Palestinian conflict are causing deep divisions. How are we to navigate this in workplaces where we are trying to teach respect for all, and valuing and leveraging our differences?

Here are my three key takeaways:

1) No matter where you are on the political spectrum, there are non-negotiables everyone in an organization must agree on. If you are working for an organization, you have to agree on the mission, vision, purpose and goals of the organization. That is what unites all diverse employees in any organizations. Everyone needs to be working together for the organization to achieve its goals and fulfill its mission.

In an inclusive environment, we can use our different ways of thinking to bring our creative ideas to the table.

2) Realize that people with a wide range of political views also have diverse ways of thinking about and analyzing issues and problems. At work, everyone should be around the table contributing their best ideas of how to improve the product, provide better customer service, win new customers, increase revenue, reduce expenses without compromising on quality, etc. When people can share ideas and listen to each other with open minds, and diverse view points come together in a respectful way, the best solution often emerges.

3) Focus on the positive contributions each unique person with their differences can bring to the at table. Because you see things differently than I do and think differently than I, you may see things I don’t see. You have perspectives and ideas that I may not have, and if I listen to you with an open mind, we can collaboratively arrive at a better place. Because you are different from me, you may be able to serve some of our clients and customers better than I can.

One final point, it is never acceptable to cross that line where you demonize and devalue a person because they are different from you. Once you call me stupid, or scum because I am different or have different viewpoints, all bets are off … you no longer have a place in the organization.

The New Generation in the Workplace – Driving the Value of Diversity

My last blog was “Three Key Points in Response to the Recent Anti-DEI Backlash” where I provided ways that organizations can proactively address the recent increase of vocal opposition to diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. I now want to add to the discussion triggered by an article I read in the March 1-7, 2024 issue of the Triangle Business Journal.

It was actually the cover story and titled “A New Generation, A New Workplace” written by Laura Brummett. The tagline on the front page read, “Starting this year, Gen Z will make up a larger portion of the U.S. workforce than baby boomers. But are companies ready for this change?”

The first statistic shared in the article is that this year, the Gen Z (people 27 years and younger) population in the workforce surpassed the number of Baby Boomers (ages 60 to 78.) And not only that, I’d like to add a point that I raised in my last blog … that this younger generation is much more diverse; over 50% are people of color, and over 20% identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

The TBJ article raises many critical points about this growing younger workforce. They include:

• This new generation is known for caring about social issues, such as diversity initiatives and sustainability.

• This generation is leading to a more progressive culture to seep into the corporate world.

• Savvy hiring managers seeking the best talent are now looking for grit, curiosity and ambition from candidates, instead of the names of prestigious schools or grade point averages. This shift results in companies bringing in more diverse talent pools.

• And as I mentioned in my previous blog, diversity in talent brings different workplace perspectives that drive innovation and transformation.

• Employers are now increasingly seeking talent from community colleges, where 50% of graduates are first-generation college attendees and even more diverse that the general Gen Z population.

• Gen Z-ers are more entrepreneurial and willing to change companies, so organizations wanting to retain and grow excellent diverse talent need to provide this generation what they want from a job. This includes continual learning and growth as well as work-life balance.

As we continue to understand the generational shift in the workplace, DEI strategy and execution become increasingly critical. Those who are part of this anti-DEI movement will soon find themselves obsolete, and ultimately less relevant and less profitable.