Your Side of the Street

It’s all about your perspective. It doesn’t matter what situation you find yourself in, what problem you’re trying to solve, what solution you’ve come up with: If you look at it another way you can find something new — good, bad or ugly. Of course, that statement isn’t rocket science, but it has significant merit in a diversity context. I’ll give you a few examples.

Last week I attended two gatherings. One was the quarterly meeting for CLEO, Consortium of Latino Employee Organizations. Held at Deloitte in Chicago, members of the organization learned best practices from representatives at Kraft Foods and General Electric.

I heard several firsthand accounts where the Latino sense of family — familia — an area of great strength in their community can actually create barriers when it comes to organizational advancement. To simplify the issue, most organizations are hierarchical, and savvy employees of a certain type already know how to work the system and use their own hustle and initiative to advance. This can stand in direct contrast to how Latino employees may be operating, expecting that their boss is looking out for their best interests, when that may not be the case. Andres Tapia explains it much better in our July article on Latino growth and the need for change.

I also attended the Conference Board diversity event at the Hyatt McCormick. I sat in on several sessions, but the one that stands out in my mind was on transgender employees. Again, the presenter wasn’t revealing anything earth shattering, at least not to me. He talked about the need to have a formal plan in place to aid transitioning employees, their bosses and peers. This will ensure work productivity doesn’t suffer while everyone gets comfortable. I actually raised my brow more than once as the information was presented, like, really? You have to tell someone to do this? But apparently you do, because things aren’t being done, and people are suffering because of it.

For instance, to prep for the aftermath in a post-op transgender employee situation you have to be sure name directories and entry badges are updated to curtail potential embarrassment and ensure someone gets phone calls in a timely fashion. You may even have to train people not to freak out when Jane who used to be John goes to the ladies room instead of the men’s room. I was quite irritated by the idea that someone might give a new woman or man a hard time about handling a bodily function, but our session leader assured me that was indeed quite often the case.

Again, it’s all about one’s perspective. What I believe is common sense may only be clear because of my particular situation and life experiences. Because someone else needs to be told something and given the chance to learn, practice or internalize the change, it doesn’t mean they’re out of order, stupid or any other unfriendly name you can think of. It just means they’re currently on a different side of the street, and may need a helping hand to cross over to where someone else is standing.