Whatever your thoughts are on Hillary Clinton, her nomination for President of the United States by a major political party is a powerful piece in history. While research shows that women compete equally with men on the political playing field, we’re now watching a female candidate compete for the highest position in the country for the first time.
What makes this so powerful?
Most of us have some personal understanding that positively representing different types of people in our media, politics, and workplaces is a good thing. When we nominate a woman for president, we prove to the ambitious school girl that a future as our country’s leader can be real for her. When Laverne Cox takes a public platform, we tell transgendered people that their conversations are not only valid, but important and valuable to us as a society. And when our companies have strong workers and leaders who come from diverse backgrounds, we send the message that success is not limited to one specific type of person. Not only does representation empower those who have traditionally been denied a voice, it encourages all of us to learn about people we might not understand, or who are different from us.
And in an increasingly global world and economy, learning from and communicating with people who are different from us is by no means logistically difficult. It’s also proven to make us better workers, communicators, and teams.
When we look at the benefits of workplace diversity, it becomes clear how much representation really matters. A 2012 study by Dow Jones compared gender makeup of leadership in successful and unsuccessful companies, finding that a higher percentage of women in senior executive roles was tied to greater financial success. A McKinsey analysis found that companies with greater gender diversity were 15% more likely to outperform more homogenous companies, and those with greater ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to outperform. If we apply these statistics to any one of our organizations, our organizations come out stronger – and smarter.
Different Perspectives Make Innovative Teams
The fact of the matter is, pairing diversity of expertise with social diversity makes for diversity of information: creative thinking, stronger problem solving, nuanced decision-making, and perspectives capable of unearthing opportunities that might never have seen the light of day. If you want an innovative team, you need those perspectives. If you want to continue attracting – and keeping – the best talent, it’s not about filling a quota, although those targets may be in place. It’s about knowing what qualities you need and when you need them, and then considering ALL of your best candidates for both their skills and the valuable perspectives they bring to the table. And it’s about letting those candidates use their voice.
As a leader, you have the unique opportunity to not only build up diverse, qualified teams, but to give your organization the competitive advantage in our increasingly global world. The decisions you make in hiring, promoting, and utilizing your employees’ skillsets and knowledge not only go a long way in promoting dignity and respect, they put you in a position of promoting truly successful business.
These decisions always begin with dignity and respect, which encourage us to seek out and recognize the ability and potential in those you bring into your organization. If you’d like to learn more about the importance of representation and diversity in the workplace and how to Lead the Way, we offer workshops for leaders with these goals. The sharp, innovative organizations of the future are only possible when ALL of our differences are taken into consideration – and when the minds we seek to hire someday can see themselves in the shoes of someone who is already there.
The unemployment rate in the United States might still feel like a major concern to many Americans, but perhaps especially so for those with disabilities. People who have disabilities are employed at a significantly lower rate- 12.5%, in fact, compared to the 5.9% unemployment rate of those with no disabilities.
This much lower rate of employment is likely due to a combination of factors, but one thing is certain: many employers are hesitant to hire people with disabilities. In the eyes of the average business owner or CEO, employees with disabilities can mean additional costs due to laws that protect those with disabilities in the workplace. But what exactly do these laws dictate, and how do they affect business owners?
The Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (also known as ADA, or the Rehabilitation Act) prohibits employers from treating people with disabilities differently, or less favorably, from other staff members. It also requires employers to provide adequate accommodation to any employees who have disabilities. These accommodations can include anything from work environments to equipment, but can also encompass removing policies that create barriers for these individuals.
The ADA does exclude certain businesses from its legislation, but only if they meet certain criteria, like if accommodating a person with a disability would place an excessive difficulty or expense on the employer.
Additionally, the ADA prohibits discrimination when it comes to hiring decisions. Potential candidates who have disabilities must be given equal opportunity to able-bodied candidates.
What Disabilities in the Workplace Actually Means
It’s likely that because of the ADA, business owners worry about hiring employees with disabilities because of potential costs. And just because a law is in place to prevent discrimination doesn’t mean that employers aren’t still hesitant about people with disabilities in the workplace. However, according to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, hiring those with disabilities is actually good for a business’ bottom line. In fact, employers who hired and met the needs of employees who had disabilities reported benefits such as retaining valuable employees, improving the company’s productivity and overall morale, and even reducing both workers’ compensation and training costs. As Judy Owen, co-founder and COO of Opportunity Works, Inc., explains: “The report also found that other accommodations had an average cost of $500. How much is that cost compared to the cost of employee turnover? It is clearly much less expensive to provide the accommodation than to have an employee leave.”
What Business Owners Can Do
As a manager, business owner, or member of an organization’s executive team, it’s your job to ensure that the workplace you lead is an environment in which ALL of your employees can work together- with ALL of their differences. Making accommodations for employees with disabilities not only sets a high standard for your organization, but it also has the potential to bring about rewarding and positive change in the workplace.
If you’re considering other ways to further incorporate dignity and respect in your work environments, be sure to contact our Campaign Manager for more information. We can provide various solutions- between training kits, workshops, and speaking engagements- to help bring together the individuals who make up your workplace, and build both trust and community.
No matter who is part of your team, differences are only barriers if we allow them to be. Learn more today!
Every day, you wake up with a choice. When you leave your home to go out into the world, you can either operate on autopilot – reacting haphazardly to interactions with others, or avoiding them altogether – or you can be mindful of your behavior and how it’s affecting other people.
Each one of us makes this choice every day – many times a day – though we may not consciously know it. But what if you started paying attention to your habits and committed to treating everyone you encounter with dignity and respect?
This is what the 30 Tips of Dignity & Respect aims to do. These simple tips are everyday behaviors that you can easily incorporate into your life – that will make a world of difference to those around you.
So read the list and follow the tips, and learn how to start making the world a better place for ALL to live:
- Start with you. Reflect on how you see others, and how others see you.
- Sweat the small stuff. It’s often the small things, such as being kind and courteous, that make a difference.
- Smile. A smile can be contagious.
- Say “Hello.” You could make someone’s day.
- Say “Thank you.” Gratitude is a gift that’s never too small to give.
- Treat others the way they want to be treated. Find out what respect means to others.
- Build cultural awareness. Differences are barriers only if we allow them to be.
- Make a new friend. Start a conversation and learn something new.
- Demonstrate mutual respect. Inclusion means being respectful regardless of position or title.
- Ask. It’s okay to ask when you’re not sure.
- Find common ground. Discover what you have in common.
- Communicate respectfully. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it.
- Practice patience. Take the time to get the full story.
- Seek understanding. It’s better to not fully understand than to fully misunderstand.
- Share your point of view. Everyone has a perspective. Let others benefit from yours.
- Get someone else’s point of view. After sharing your perspective, give others a chance to share theirs.
- Reinvent the wheel. Do something that hasn’t already been done.
- Be open. Try to experience new thoughts and ideas as learning opportunities.
- Be flexible. Things don’t always go as planned. Adapt to changing conditions when necessary.
- Join the team. Do your part to support teamwork.
- Be a relationship builder. Seek ways to expand your network.
- Build trust. Be fair. Limit bias and favoritism.
- Lead the way. Let your inclusive behavior light a path for others.
- Listen. People feel respected when they know you’re listening to their point of view.
- Remember we all make mistakes. Resist the urge to point out the ones others make.
- Do the right thing. Make a difference. Get caught being good.
- Become a mentor. You – yes, you – can help others realize their potential.
- Lend a hand. A little help can go a long way.
- Live a healthy life. Do something good for your mind, body, & soul. Encourage others to join you.
- Be a champion of dignity and respect. Demonstrate respect for self, others, and your community.
Even with the relaunch of the Dignity & Respect Campaign, coupled with our new energy and direction, it would be remiss to move forward without acknowledging and reminding ourselves of what the campaign stands for in the first place.
One of our original and continued initiatives includes our 7 Pillars of Dignity & Respect. Each one of these pillars represents a specific behavior that we fully believe will help us all create an environment – whether it’s a classroom, a work setting, or even in the line at the supermarket – that we can all exist in both peacefully and productively.
1. Start with You. Understand how you see yourself, how others see you, and how your filters guide you, and influence your behavior.
We all have different backgrounds and vastly different experiences from one another. These experiences have shaped how you have come to see the world, as well as how you react to certain situations. Knowing these factors about yourself can go a long way in your ability to interact with others, and treat them with dignity and respect. Know your strengths as well as you know your weaknesses. Understand what has made you you
2. Sweat the Small Stuff. Understand the concepts of intent vs. impact. Become mindful of how you respond to others and be responsible for your words and actions.
Once you fully understand yourself, it’s crucial to know how others might perceive you. Does your humor upset others around you? Do you find yourself making jokes or casual comments that cause others to wince? This type of “harmless” behavior might not mean much to you, but often it can resonate with other people in deeper ways. Be sensitive to others and aware of your own actions. Hold yourself accountable.
3. Build Cultural Awareness. Respond to employees, customers, and business partners in a culturally appropriate manner. Treat others the way they want to be treated.
Cultural awareness does not simply involve learning about other cultures or belief systems. Building cultural awareness means you work towards accepting those differences. By understanding these differences and welcoming them into your communities or circles, we start to drop the barriers.
4. Find Common Ground. Work through differences and gain agreement while maintaining dignity and respect. Acknowledge the value of different perspectives.
Yes, it’s true that you might not understand another person’s opinion, and you might strongly disagree with it. But does that mean you disagree with that person entirely? Chances are very high that you have something in common with him or her. It could be a small thing (perhaps you both have children), or it could be something you didn’t expect (perhaps you have the same favorite author). Or maybe you and this person share a common passion that could spark a collaboration or partnership down the road. You won’t ever know until you try – until you set aside differences and look for the commonalities.
5. Join the Team. Create interactions on teams that are respectful of individual differences, build trust and agreement, limit bias and favoritism, and strive for the best overall outcomes.
Teams do not function at full capacity unless everyone is involved. Just as two heads are better than one, a team or group in which everyone is engaged and contributing is better than one or two individuals excluding the rest. It’s true that these types of interactions can be difficult to cultivate, which is why it takes everyone’s effort to involve others. Work to find the strengths of your teammates, and figure out the best ways to encourage and inspire each member.
6. Lead the Way. Be inclusive with every person, in every interaction, in everything you do, every day.
If each one of us waited for someone else to step up and be the first to lead an initiative, how many initiatives do you expect would get started? The truth is that it’s everyone’s responsibility to take charge and make an impact. This impact can be as small as an effort to smile at everyone you pass on the street.
7. Do the Right Thing. Do your part to make your organization, school, community, and sports team a better place for ALL to live, work, learn, and play.
Don’t do the easy thing – do the right thing. We all have the ability to make a difference in the lives of others. Don’t underestimate yourself or how much acting out of dignity and respect can impact the world.
In addition to knowing what each of these 7 Pillars stands for, the Dignity & Respect Campaign also offers modules and training materials for you to incorporate these principles into your own organization. Contact us for more information, and take the first step in making the world a better place for ALL to live.