What is the impact of an individual’s difference compared to their diversity?
This is question that is challenging my work at the moment. I do not want to minimise the importance of diversity, but am recognising more often that we can do a disservice to an individual, by focussing to strongly on their diversity. I am a white man, aged 50ish, straight and able bodied (relatively), but these groupings go no way to defining me. Of course they some way in dictating who I am and how I behave, but the more complex and hidden aspects of my identity and personality go much further.
The more people I meet; friends, clients and colleagues, who I talk to and share information with, the more I sharpen my understanding of the impact of difference. What are the individual personality and identity characteristics that influence behaviour? I know what many of mine are – do you recognise and acknowledge yours?
I was, running a “Working with Difference” workshop a few months ago when a discussion began about siblings, in particular, where each person’s was positioned in their family. The difference in the managerial behaviour of the older sibling, compared to the younger ones was astounding, as it was for the only child. I am not suggesting that the eleven people involved was a large sample group, to make any type of definitive statements, but for those that took part, they had never recognised that so much of their management style had been formed by this part of their identity. It was generally agreed that this was as much an influence as their gender, race or other broader diversity.
Getting in touch with one’s own self ‘beyond diversity’ is a strong step in understanding how and why you function in a given way, what presses your buttons, why you respond in certain ways, why you cannot get on with someone at work or why some people think you are a good manager whilst other think you are a bully. The list could go on.
The more stories I hear, the more I see how an individual’s difference is at least as important as (or perhaps than) their diversity. Hence Equality Edge is now looking at “Beyond Diversity” as well as “Working with Difference”.
There is still so much to learn about equality and diversity.
Your thoughts are welcome and any sharing invaluable.