The return on diversity and inclusion

Paul Butler, Newleaf Training and Development. Submitted photo

A hot topic within the staff training and development world right now is the subject of diversity and inclusion.

A socio-political undercurrent is driving this, which although vitally important, is not the focus of my column. The purpose of my column is to encourage employees and entrepreneurs to ‘go the extra mile’ — to help serve their customers and colleagues exceptionally well.

I have organized this column by three sections: 1) What diversity and inclusion is not; 2) What diversity and inclusion should be; and 3) When the subject can actually cause offense, if overplayed.
In my opinion, diversity and inclusion is not about training employees to be accepting of the LGTBQ community or to refrain from being racist. To me, these are policies that need to be written into an employee handbook. Subsequently, if an employee demonstrates disrespect and disorderly behavior toward anyone, then that’s a matter for employee discipline.

These are norms of decent human behavior. Regardless of whether Person A agrees with Person B’s lifestyle choice (in the case of sexual orientation), we still must work together effectively in the workplace. Likewise, there is no place for racism — we’ve just got to get done what needs to get done as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Do you remember my friend Tom from the last two columns? He was telling me recently about some diversity and inclusion training he had to sit through at work for eight hours. I asked him what he learned. He thought about it for a while and then he said, “Well, I learned I can come to work dressed as a woman and they can’t fire me.” Is that really what diversity and inclusion is about? I’d suggest it isn’t.

I believe diversity and inclusion should be about building an organizational culture in which we welcome different viewpoints and everyone feels they have a voice. At Newleaf Training and Development, we’ve had the honor of partnering with some global organizations determined to build such a culture. These are proactive, forward-thinking organizations that intentionally deconstruct silos within their teams. These are organizations that intentionally encourage leaders to hire and develop people who think differently to how, they themselves think.

We have seen the opposite within mediocre organizations — where managers hire people who are just like them. We call this the ‘mini-me’ syndrome and it happens when a manager is threatened by the brilliance of others and so they hire people who are just like them, that they can manage and control. This ‘sameness’ may show itself by the mediocre manager hiring people of the same age; same race; similar schooling; same hobbies and interests etc. In a world that’s becoming increasingly competitive and innovation is key, this sameness can stifle innovation

To conclude, I’d like to suggest that when the diversity and inclusion agenda is overplayed in the workplace this could actually cause offense.
I’ll just say this straight — As a Caucasian, heterosexual, married male, it is offensive to me and others like me to suggest that we have sat behind closed doors for decades thinking, “How can we keep the best jobs and the best vendor contracts for people just like us?”

As an employee for nearly 20 years and having done what we’ve done as a training company for the last 12 years, I’ve never participated in; or overheard, or had anyone tell me a tale that goes along those lines. It’s offensive to suggest this.

I’d also suggest it can be patronizing and, therefore, offensive to explicitly or implicitly suggest someone was hired because of their gender, sexual orientation or race. Likewise, it can suffocate leaders, if they’re prohibited from managing an underperforming employee for fear of being accused of being sexist, homophobic or racist.
A leader has a noble, honorable responsibility to bring out the best of the human resources under their charge to deliver organizational results — there’s no time for this level of discord within the team.

So, a hot topic for sure — I hope I’ve clarified what I believe diversity and inclusion is not as well as what it should be and when it can be offensive if overplayed.

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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