NorQuest College: Struggling with diversity and inclusion issues at home or work?

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NorQuest College: Struggling with diversity and inclusion issues at home or work?

by pmnationtalk on March 29, 2018752 Views

March 28, 2018

Say you just got new next-door neighbours. If your new neighbour was a friend prior to moving in with those six kids, loud animated conversations, and a big scary dog, would it be easier to invite them over for a Sunday barbeque? Without that prior connection, for you, with your serene and quiet single-child family cuddled up with the cat, any hope for mutual understanding or friendship might seem like a stretch. It could, in fact, be a little intimidating. You might even resent them for intruding.

The fact is, a lot of people believe a good neighbour is a tall fence. People have a right to live wherever they want as long as they don’t violate your comfort zone, right? But what happens when those comfort zones are challenged? Do we fester and hold tight to what we are accustomed to, resenting those who are violating that? What kind of community does that make?

Our workplaces are very much like this. We know our work “neighbourhood” and something, or someone, new can feel uncomfortable. We may not understand those with different backgrounds, or have context for the way they work, talk, or behave, and we can struggle to find productive ways to work together.

Canada’s workforce is rapidly evolving, creating shifts in workplace communities. With one in five Canadians now born outside this country, and with heightened awareness of the need for better understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, diversity and inclusion is key to success in business. No longer do we need antiquated affirmative action quotas; increased global migration has changed the face of our workforce. So now our workplaces are more diverse and everyone is happy, right?

If only it were that easy. Many are struggling when it comes to managing workplace relationships, especially in a very diverse world. Different cultures have different expectations, worldviews, ways of working. How do you create harmony and learn to work together? As leaders, how do you foster, support, and maintain positive employee-to-employee and manager-to-employee relationships? These take understanding and often a new set of skills and knowledge.

Edmonton’s NorQuest College is a leader in helping employers and employees navigate the sometimes rocky road of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The college’s Centre for Intercultural Education educates, trains, and coaches organizations to help their workforces develop intercultural competencies with tools such as The Something’s Up! Cycle. Let’s look at how it works.

“You will know you had ‘A Something’s Up!’ moment when you have an emotional or judgement reaction to something someone does or says,” said Sarah Apedaile, intercultural specialist with NorQuest. The cycle was inspired by the Personal Leadership Cycle. It is a simple practice that can help us get past the judgment stage and into a position of curiosity. Curiosity opens up possibilities for responding in a way that supports our value of inclusion and leads to effective communication that, frankly, helps our organizations be more productive.”

The Something’s Up! Cycle, available online for free to anyone on the NorQuest website, offers a step-by-step way to work through misunderstandings while building important skills for working effectively with diversity. It works for individuals, teams, and organizations and in many different social and work contexts. It takes you through:

  • recognizing when something is going on,
  • understanding the root of reactions to it,
  • making sense of a situation by considering different perspective points,
  • examining expectations,
  • seeking to understand by finding commonalities and acknowledging different perspectives, and examining “normal” with respect to your cultural value orientations, and
  • Preparing to respond to a situation with informed action to get to the best response possible

The Something’s Up! Cycle helps us cultivate emotional intelligence, suspend judgment, and develop perspective-taking, all key competencies for being able to build healthy and productive relationships with our diverse co-workers and neighbours.

For example, does the fact your new co-worker sits in his office for hours at end with the door closed mean he is anti-social, or does that just mean he feels he needs to work extra hard to prove himself, or is it that he is just not comfortable with small talk? Does your new employee not have any good ideas to share with the group, or is she simply respecting the boss’ authority and wisdom by staying silent at a team meeting? It could also be that she is focused on fitting in and therefore reluctant to contribute ideas that are different.

Relationships in intercultural spaces can result in frustration, diminished trust, and can reinforce stereotypes and prejudice unless you are well prepared and have the right tools. The Something’s Up! Cycle is a simple but powerful process that anyone can incorporate into their daily lives. When used individually or in a group at work, however, it can change the way you do business.

We are part of a rapidly changing world. As a business, growing and adapting your people processes, and creating a culture that is ready to not only accept diversity, but to thrive because of it, will position you for a great future.

For more information about Something’s Up or to explore ways you can develop intercultural and diversity and inclusion competencies personally and in your organization, contact Dr. Lori Campbell, principal, NorQuest College Centre for Intercultural Education. We offer continuing education, corporate training, and fully customized training that will give you a stronger workforce and help you maximize the potential of every employee.


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