Part 3 of the Navigating DEI in the Workplace Series
I call myself the cultural competency navigator because I want to help organizations and individuals successfully navigate the complexities of identity, culture, and creating inclusive workplace environments.
Many people in our organizations get lost when they think about DEI. Their eyes glaze over. They break out into a cold sweat. They freeze and start asking the typical questions:
- What if I get it wrong?
- What is the next step?
- Can you tell me what to do?
- Am I going to get canceled?
Hey, if I was lost in nature, without a compass or a map, I might start to freak out too, just a bit. But thankfully, I am a graduate of the military survival course SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape). I have a few skills to fall back on when faced with the unknown. If you ever get shot down behind enemy lines, I’m your guy. Part of my land navigation training during SERE involved learning to understand the topography, reading the land if you will, orienting myself. I needed to read the land to find my way to the next checkpoint.
When you start working on new DEI goals in the workplace, your employees can feel a little lost. What was once familiar can start to fill like the unknown. Expectations may change, processes may change, and power dynamics may change. Change puts comfortable folks off-balance.
If you are a leader or Human Resource (HR) manager, let’s clear up a myth. Please share this with your group: When it comes to understanding culture participating in workplace, DEI training doesn’t mean that you will never get lost or that you will be perfect when you finish.
Those we supervise will continue to make mistakes, but investing in quality DEI training will keep your folks from “freaking out” and compounding poor behaviors or reinforcing poor systems. Good training helps maintain the culture in the organization and helps people read the room.
Reading the room when it comes to DEI, is like using topography to navigate when you are lost. You might not know exactly where you need to go, but you sure as heck should know what to avoid. Reading the room is an important skill in workplace DEI training, so I incorporate lots of practical scenario work into my sessions. Learning to read the room takes some practice. Everyone won’t just naturally know what to do because we don’t all have the same experiences. Here are a few examples to help connect this analogy a bit more.
|Reading the Topography
|Reading the Room
|Cliffs – You don’t want to fall off.
|Micro-aggressions – Some things are better left unsaid. Avoid stereotypical language and outdated expressions.
|Mountains – Hard to climb, but have good views.
|Listen – Don’t feel like you need to lead the conversation or share your every thought. Sometimes listening and taking it all in is the best thing you do.
|Rivers – Life-giving but also treacherous.
|Go with the flow and engage coworkers – Ask, “How you can I join in to learn more.” Ask, “Is my presence welcome?” Be curious and engage thoughtfully. You might make a mistake. Own it and move on.
|Dry flat land – Easy to navigate, but be mindful of flash floods or lack of water.
|Humor – Be mindful of the jokes you tell, humor is great, but identity-based jokes can get you in trouble
|Wooded areas – Offer shelter and food.
|Be an ally and build authentic relationships – The only way to learn and grow is to take risks and get in the thick of it.
Are you tired of boring DEI training with a bunch of talking and no practical application? Reach out to Glen and his team, and let’s see if we can navigate this culture together.
Glen has almost 30 years of anti-racism training experience and close to 15 years of executive leadership experience. His goal is not to make those in your workplace DEI experts, but he wants to compliment your good work. Think of him as a champion for equitable leadership solutions, backed by a lifetime of practical experience.
See Glen in Action
In This Series
Part 1: Finding the Light
Part 2: Connect the Dots
Part 3: Learn to Read the Room
Part 4: Look at the Big Picture
Part 5: Pay Attention to Boundaries
Part 6: Practice Your Skills
Part 7: Pay Attention to Changing Perceptions
Part 8: Understanding the Terrain of Change
Part 9: Take Risks and Up Your Game
Part 10: Get Lost in the Familiar
Part 11: Practice Emotional Control
Part 12: Learn How to Recover from Mistakes