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Diversity Sucks (Please read before you schedule your demonstration!)

Now that I’ve got your attention and before you get out the pitchforks and torches––let me explain…

Leaders don’t have the luxury of avoiding difficult issues. One of the most contentious issues leaders deal with today is that of “diversity.” Even if you lead a small organization or a small group, it is likely that you’re dealing with a diverse range of people.

Now before we dive in, let’s clarify.

As I implied above, the statement “diversity sucks” is meant to get your attention. I use this as a tactic to instigate discussion in my workshops too. I’ve just found over time that it’s much easier to engage people with a provocative title or statement like “Diversity Sucks.” You usually don’t get that excited about “A Comprehensive Study of Tactics for Managing Diversity in the Workplace”–– or some such academic leaning theme.

So what, exactly, do I mean?

It’s not that diversity itself is the problem––though it can be. Rather, it’s the way we manage diversity and the way we lead a diverse group that gives us trouble.

First of all, what specific differences are we talking about under the umbrella of “diversity?”

Of course there are obvious characteristics and traits that distinguish human beings from one another. The most obvious and contentious today are race, color, ethnicity, age and biological sex.

There are also less obvious differences that need to be acknowledged, addressed and managed including regional culture, religious and philosophical beliefs, political ideology and affiliation, sexual and gender identity, personality types, intelligence, emotional intelligence and personal motivations. This is the short list! We could fill a page…

Why is this even an issue? Doesn’t diversity make us stronger?

I don’t believe so.

Feel free to argue, but let me share my reasoning.

I will acknowledge that it is a widely held belief and that many organizations spend a lot of time and resources cultivating diversity in their ranks. In many cases, diversity is mandated by policy and even by regulation and law.

Research clearly indicates that diversity in any group can produce an innovative culture where a lot of different ideas can produce a rich array of options and outcomes.