COVID-19 Blog 3 – Diversity and Interpersonal Interactions during the pandemic

During these months of living through the Coronavirus pandemic, I will continue to writing blogs about my diversity, career development and leadership consulting through the lens of living through this pandemic.

Questions to ponder – how does what we truly think about diversity and inclusion manifest itself differently during this interesting time we are living through? Can some routine daily interactions show us how we may really feel about diversity?

I would like to share a story shared by a Black professional colleague of mine. In a recent trip to a home supply store, he needed some advice about a product he was buying for one of his home improvement projects. He was directed to a middle-aged white female employee who was the expert on that particular product line. As he approached her, when he was maybe 8-10 feet away, the woman stuck out her arm and hand in the “stop” movement reminding him to remember the social distancing rules. He asked his questions standing about 8 feet away.

Ten minutes later, my colleague saw the same store employee having another interaction with a white female customer with about two or three feet of distance between them.

So now some hard questions need to be asked:
• Was the store employee really worried about social distancing, or was it perhaps more of an uneasiness around men, black people, or black men that dictated her behavior?

In the US, the Coronavirus is disproportionately impact minority communities

• Did the store employee perhaps think that it was more likely that she could catch the virus from a black person than from a white person? I hope you all have been hearing about how the Coronavirus is disproportionately impacting minority communities.

• During this time of sheltering at home and social distancing, are we all going to have less and less interaction with diverse people?

• Finally, raising this up from a personal experience discussion to a broader discussion, what can we learn and what can we do about the statistics showing that minorities in the US are catching and dying from the virus at extremely higher rates than the white majority?

Now, on the positive side, I have now started watching the 6:00 World News Tonight on ABC and I really appreciate the wide range of gender, racial and cultural diversity of medical professionals shown and interviewed in the stories.

As our country and the world continues to unite to fight this insidious virus, let’s keep in the front of our minds the continue progress we need to make in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion. As we do more virtual interaction, lets also keep in mind:

1) That we can use this time to set up connections and interactions with diverse people from ourselves

2) To remember the economically challenged people who may not even have the technology or the living space to even connect to outside world.

Five reasons this baby boomer loves working with millennials

As both a diversity and career development consultant, I enjoy studying and presenting the topic of our multiple generations in the workplace and generational diversity. (Link to my blog on the growing areas of diversity that I published in 2012.) Generational diversity is now one of the most discussed diversity topics.

I am always saddened when I hear the generations rag on each other. Older people often comment that the younger generation feels so entitled, wants everything handed to them, is lazy, and cannot stick with anything. And then some young people complain about how older employees are slow, stuck in their ways, not open to change and judgmental.

Instead of a workplace collision around the generations, there should instead be workplace collaboration. The generations do have so much to offer each other in terms of vast knowledge, marketplace awareness, creativity and enthusiasm.

Thanks to Sheila Forte-Trammel (link) for coming up with the “from collision to collaboration” idea.

Being a baby boomer well into my 60s, I have enjoyed most of my interactions with millennial professionals I call on. They are indeed cool with engaging with an older guy like me. Here are some of the traits I enjoyed with some of those millennials I have worked with:

1. They are open to new ideas and like to think “outside the box.” They are looking for new and better ways to do things.

2. They are not afraid to take ideas up to senior leadership quickly. Too often some seasoned professionals express fear or hesitancy with taking some of my ideas to their leadership, whereas the millennials will just “go for it.”

3. Discussions are fast and crisp. In a recent meeting with a young leader at a tech company, we hit about a half dozen different topics in less than 45 minutes. And younger professionals can answer a question in 2-3 sentences, and they are indeed complete answers.

4. They are often leaders in diversity and inclusion within their companies. Having grown up in an era where diversity was there and assumed, they are much more attuned to the business value of being fully inclusive of everyone.

5. They value jobs that offer them personal growth. Many millennials strive to find professions that align with their passions and then excel in those jobs.

And while I was writing this blog, Anne-Lise Gere of Gere Consulting Associates, an excellent HR consultant I have met a number of times, published an article about retaining Millennial talent. Do link to this resourceful article, “Revisiting Turnover Myths For Your Millennial Workforce.”

And now perhaps some millennial out there will be inspired to write a blog on how they enjoy working with seasoned experienced baby boomers like me!