Tackling Differences in the Workplace

startup, workplace

When breaking stories go viral and flood both news outlets and social media, our first reaction is usually to form an opinion. We read about the situation and often pick a side, maybe even by sharing our beliefs across our own feeds. The wonder of the Internet is that we can engage in heated debates using hashtags and memes. We’re free to share and defend whatever stance we want.

But what happens if these heated news stories leak into the workplace? Are we free to share our beliefs there? How do we talk about these issues?

The World We Live & Work In

When it comes to how each one of us sees the world, we all have different filters that are dictated by our personal experiences. According to D&R Founder and CEO, Candi Castleberry Singleton, these filters are “the lenses with which we see the world.”

“I see the world through my life experiences,” she explains.  “In fact, some of these experiences aren’t even my own – they’re stories that my parents told me, they’re things I’ve seen on the news. They might not even be a real example of what happened if I were in that situation.”

Our filters are unavoidable, and are particularly important to be mindful of in a work environment, where conflicts can easily arise. And even though differences in opinion or lifestyle should not affect the workplace, they very often do. In fact, according to one study by Accenture, a shocking 35% of employees are dissatisfied at work due to internal politics.

What You Can Do

For business owners, executives, or human resource team members, it’s crucial to ensure that your workplace is a positive one. Things like employees’ ethnic and cultural differences, age gaps, and lifestyles can easily affect how individuals relate to one another. Creating a space where your employees can communicate respectfully is key to maintaining a healthy environment.

The Dignity & Respect Campaign believes that differences – particularly in the workplace – are only barriers if we allow them to be. As Candi says, “It’s a choice we get to make, that I’m going to allow your difference to be a problem.” When we choose respect over conflict, we make the world we live in a better place.

And because D&R is about creating a world a better place for all to live, we want to help you get your organizations and businesses on track. Using our various solutions, we teach individuals to find common ground, build cultural awareness, and to learn to work with others through their differences.

To learn more, contact our Campaign Manager for more information. Also, be sure to sign up for our newsletter to continue receiving information on the Dignity & Respect Campaign!

 

Removing Barriers: An Interview with Writer Alison Taverna

LGBT, interview

For the month of June, the Dignity & Respect Campaign has focused one of our initiatives on LGBT teenagers. We’ve developed both reading lists and discussion guides in order to better understand how we as a community can reduce bullying and make the world a better place for this population to live in.

However, our nation was recently shaken by the devastating tragedy in Orlando – a shooting that killed nearly 50 individuals in a gay nightclub. In the wake of such an occurrence, it’s easy to be met with a range of emotions. All across social media, people from varying backgrounds are posting and sharing their diverse beliefs and feelings about the matter – everything from stances on Islamophobia to the ever-controversial matter of gun control.

But regardless of the issues that have arisen from this event, one thing is very clear: now, more than ever, we as a country need to focus on how to treat one another with dignity and respect. We need to remember that our differences are only barriers if we allow them to be.

So in the spirit of removing barriers, we feel that one of the best ways we as a campaign can honor the victims of Orlando and the LGBT community as a whole is to continue talking about it. We recently interviewed Alison Taverna, a young, up-and-coming writer who is a member of the LGBT community and writes frequently on the topic. Taverna is from Massachusetts and was gracious enough to talk to D&R about her experiences as a teenager and coming to terms with her identity:

D&R: What was it like growing up as an LGBT teen? What were some of your struggles?

AT: I never considered myself an LGBT teen. I didn’t come out until I turned 19 and was attending an all-women’s liberal arts college in a city far away from my own. I grew up in a small farm town about forty minutes west of Boston; the Charles River trickled through the back woods, and that was about the extent of any real movement I ever saw. I didn’t identify as gay because I didn’t have the space to, but the real problem was I didn’t know I didn’t have the space to. The summer before my junior year of high school, I traveled to D.C. for a ten-day leadership conference. It was the first time I had ever been on my own. My roommate came from Texas and brought with her a stuffed animal. I remember teasing her about it, asking, “Did your boyfriend give that to you?” over and over until finally she said, “No, my girlfriend did.” That was the moment I realized I was perpetuating this assumption of a heteronormative life that, if I was being honest, wasn’t something I even believed in. After that summer I really started being skeptical of what I thought and who was making me think that way.

D&R: Did you have any role models during the time? Who and why?

AT: I wrote letters to that same D.C. roommate for over a year after we went back to our respective towns across the country. We never talked about my sexuality outright, but we talked about hers and I was quick to ask questions about her girlfriends, the hard conversations she had with her mother, and gay pop culture. Looking back now, those letters are what got me here. I never saw her as an LGBT role model; I saw her as a [fellow] kid struggling to grow up. But at the same time, I knew she was free in a way I wasn’t. And in her I saw a life where I could be open and my friends didn’t become afraid of me, my parents would still keep me, and I’d be able to be a bold voice in a community I cared about.

D&R: What resources could have benefited you as an LGBT teen?

AT: Any type of public immersion into the LGBT culture. I would have loved to see some LGBT writers or artists come into our school to lead workshops, do readings, or have a conversation. I remember sitting in dark auditoriums where people talked at us from a stage about drunk driving and drugs. But what would have happened if we turned on the lights? If we sat facing each other? I needed successful, unapologetic, talented members of the LGBT community in the classroom. I needed teachers who taught about the worldwide persecution of human beings because of their sexual and gender orientation. We needed a Gay-Straight Alliance, a gender neutral bathroom, a higher level of policing those students who spat insanely ignorant comments based in hate.

D&R: What do you wish someone would have told you growing up?

AT: I wish someone would have told me being “other” can be a gift. I have to fight every day to continue being a person many people, often openly, reject. I think when you fight for who you are that ruthlessly you validate your life. And at the root of that validation has to be the idea that breathes you are worth it. I spend most of my days standing in front of a classroom, a classroom that looks almost identical to the ones I sat in when I was 16, and I know what I represent now. I know what people think when they look at me. I’m at a place in my life where it feels like the most important thing I can do is to keep standing there. Without shame. Because I know so many people didn’t and won’t get that opportunity. And man, I wish someone would have told me how beautiful my skin could feel standing like that.

For more information on Alison Taverna’s latest book of poems, please click here. And to learn how your organization can take active steps to better include and interact with the LGBT community, contact our Campaign Manager to learn what D&R can do for you.

Disabilities in the Workplace

disabilities, handicapped

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!

 

Disabling Ableism

Wheelchair, Disability, Injured, Disabled, Handicapped, Ableism

You’re probably used to seeing handicapped parking spaces in front of stores and restaurants, or perhaps even familiar with the growing number of automatic doors into public buildings that are handicapped-accessible. And to someone who’s never had the experience of being disabled, these small conveniences might seem almost like a luxury. Did you know, however, that nearly one in five Americans has a disability – and that more than half of them identify it as severe?

For people who live with a disability, simple things like parking spaces and door buttons are not a convenience, but a necessity. Many disabled people struggle to do things like housework or even fixing meals. They often have difficulty lifting items like grocery bags or grasping a glass of water. But aside from overcoming physical challenges of daily life, many people with disabilities also suffer from discrimination.

What is Ableism?

The term ableism refers to the “practices and dominant attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities.” When we talk about ableism, we’re talking about not treating those with disabilities as whole people. Ableism assumes that able-bodied people are superior to anyone living with a disability.

If you’ve never heard this word before, you’re not alone. Unlike racism or sexism, which are two types of prejudices that are widely referenced and discussed, ableism is not as mainstream. Does this mean that ableist beliefs are not as harmful or negative? Absolutely not. Discrimination towards people with disabilities is just as damaging. And because ableism is not talked about as commonly as other inequalities, it may actually be harder to know when you are contributing towards ableist tendencies.

What Can You Do to Stop Ableism?

The world might be predominantly built for able-bodied individuals, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t simple ways to make a difference. Read on for a few easy ways to help do your part to stop ableism:

Watch what you say. It’s easy to brush off using certain words as “no big deal,” but to people living with a disability, these terms can be both disrespectful and hurtful. And maybe it’s a no-brainer that a word like retarded is not okay to use, but things like crazy or spaz or psycho also have harmful effects. Be sure to refrain from using any sort of language that targets someone with a disability (and for a helpful, more detailed guide – click here).   

Be considerate. As an able-bodied person, you might forget that you have access to just about everywhere – and that someone with a disability might not. Places like handicapped bathroom stalls and the front seats of public transportation were put there for a reason. Though you might not be intentionally discriminating against people with disabilities, you are inadvertently doing just that by utilizing the resources there for them. So instead of taking the elevator and crowding it for someone who needs it, take the stairs or the escalator.

Always ask before assisting. One of the worst assumptions that an able-bodied person can make is that everyone with a disability is incapable of helping themselves. People living with disabilities know how to ask for help, and will when they need it. However, if you see someone who seems to be struggling, be sure to ask permission beforehand. Even if they decline, they will likely appreciate the gesture.

In addition to these simple ways to do your part to fight ableism, take the time to learn more about people who live with disabilities. Participate in the Dignity & Respect Campaign’s Building Cultural Awareness Initiative and download our discussion guide and reading list for this month. Ask yourself questions about living with a disability, such as how you talk about disabilities or who should be responsible for supporting disabled persons.  

Remember: differences are only barriers if we allow them to be. Do your part and learn how you can help to make this world a better place – for ALL to live.

 

January Dignity & Respect Champion: Scott Lammie

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UPMC Executive Believes Healthfulness Depends Mostly on Your Environment

Scott Lammie becomes the first Dignity & Respect Champion of 2016

Everybody seems to know, or has heard of, Scott Lammie. When his name comes up, it brings a smile to people’s faces. That’s because of the way he lives his life. Scott is not an observer of life in Greater Pittsburgh, he’s an active participant in making our region a better place for all. Scott serves as the Chief Financial Officer of UPMC Health Plan and is Senior Vice President of UPMC’s Insurance Services Division. He has worked in the healthcare field for more than 30 years and has learned the impact a community can have on its people.

“Since working in healthcare, I have a greater appreciation for all of the factors that determine a person’s health status. Roughly 80% of health status has nothing to do with healthcare delivery per se, but rather is determined by the person’s psycho-socio and socio-economic circumstances and the environment in which the person lives, works, and plays,” Scott said.

Scott’s father died of cancer when he was seven years old. Scott and his four brothers and younger sister were raised mostly by their mother and they all learned the importance of helping one another. When his mother remarried, his step-father was very community oriented, so from a young age Scott understood how helping others could make a huge impact on improving a community.

“I have learned over my lifetime that people are the product of their environment. If a community isn’t safe, clean, and diverse; has poor educational outcomes; and offers limited employment opportunities, its people will suffer. Every citizen has the ability to help strengthen our underserved communities so that every person and family will have access to support, mentoring, and opportunity to help them lead healthy and successful lives,” Scott explained.

Scott walks his talk. He is active on many volunteer boards focusing on economic development and community service that supports the Pittsburgh community including Duquesne University, The Forbes Fund, Hill House Association, Laurel Highlands Council Boy Scouts of America, Little Sisters of the Poor, Manchester Bidwell Corporation, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Corporate Circles Board, Southwestern Pennsylvania Food Security Partnership, United Way of Allegheny County Tocqueville Society and Impact Cabinet, and Urban Innovation21.

Candi Castleberry Singleton, Founder and CEO of the Dignity & Respect Campaign nominated Scott Lammie because of the great humanitarian work he does for the Pittsburgh region. “When I think of a Dignity & Respect Champion, I see Scott. He is one of the only people I know who has the bandwidth and willingness to cross demographic, economic, racial, faith and education barriers to help individuals and organizations as a whole. I don’t know how he has the time to be a CFO, serve on multiple boards and donate his time to improving the community, but we are all beneficiaries of his efforts.” Candi said.

The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness initiative designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect. A Dignity & Respect Champion is someone ― nominated by a co-worker, family member, or friend ― who embraces diversity, embodies compassion, and demonstrates mutual respect. For more information and to take the Dignity & Respect Pledge, visit dignityandrespect.org or to nominate a Champion visit surveymonkey.com/s/DR_champion

Best Inclusion Practices. February 10th, 2016

On February 10th, Dignity & Respect Founder and CEO Candi Castleberry Singleton, will lead a workshop on the 7 Pillars of the Dignity & Respect. Are you are interested in learning about behaviors that help us create an environment of inclusion, dignity, respect, and engagement for individuals, students, employees, customers, and communities? Join us!

The next Inclusion Best Practices Series session will provide an overview of a real world, practical but engaging approach to creating more inclusive workplaces and communities. During the session, Candi will draw from nearly 15 years of experience serving as the Chief Diversity Officer for Fortune 500 corporations around the country.

Join us on:
February 10th, 7:30am.-9:30am.
Location: Rivers Casino, 777 Casino Dr. Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Free parking available

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