Workplaces are one of the few places in society where we don’t get to choose who we associate with. With this in mind, understanding different backgrounds and viewpoints is important for being successful in business. Each person’s background defines their world, said Howard Ross. When we hear “diversity,” for many it brings up a “them v. us” feeling, rather than one of inclusion.
Over the past 20 years, we have seen a steady polarizing trend in our country…a movement toward a “them vs. us” way of thinking and acting. The resulting impact on our organizations, our political structure, our economy and our communities threaten the foundations that we hold most dear. A recent Diversity Insights Series conversation brought Howard Ross to campus to discuss why this dynamic happens and what we can do to begin to bridge these gaps in our lives.
Howard Ross is one of the nation’s leading diversity training consultants and a nationally recognized expert on diversity, leadership, and organizational change. He founded Cook Ross in 1989 as a consulting firm dedicated to developing and implementing innovative solutions in diversity and inclusion. In his 90-minute talk, to a (diverse) group of business people from around the Twin Cities, Ross explained how our culture has changed and provided 8 ways to impact our unconscious reactions to “us vs. them.”
Today, most of news and commentary sites we read an watch share our worldview. Do you prefer MSNBC or Fox News, for example; NPR, talk radio (or sports talk)? We are “self segregating into mental (and physical) enclaves of people who think like us,” said Ross. This reinforces our ideas of “the others” as those who don’t think like we do. But, he points out, “there is a difference between having a strong point of view and demonizing each other.”
American demographics are changing organically – this has never happened before and we don’t have a rulebook for it. The beginnings for that “societal rulebook” are Ross’ 8 ways to impact our unconscious:
What other ways do you have to bridge the gap between “them” and “us?” Let us know in the comments. The Diversity Insights Series is presented by the Opus College of Business in partnership with the Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity. Offered quarterly, the series will feature individual speakers or panels focused on current and emerging issues on workplace diversity and inclusion topics.
Learn more about the Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity and its 2012 conference, A Time for Innovation, March 20-22, 2012.