Paul Butler: Embracing differences

Paul Butler

One of the many aspects of living in California, which my wife and I enjoy, is the cultural diversity of this beautiful state. We enjoyed this diversity on Saturday evening when we shared dinner with two other couples — each bringing a dish or two representative of our country of origin or cultural heritage. Our hosts were of South Korean descent and our other friends were Vietnamese and Italian.

Born and raised in England, we thought it only fit and proper to bring to the table two quintessentially British dishes — “Toad in the Hole” and “Spotted Dick.” Once our friends stopped giggling they did give our fayre a try. After dinner, we even had a game of “conkers,” but that’s another story!

Saturday night also reminded me that one of the many aspects we enjoy about living in the United States is that our friends don’t see themselves as Korean, Vietnamese or Italian anymore. Slowly but surely, Gaynor and I don’t see ourselves as English anymore — like our feasting friends, we now all see ourselves as Americans. Yes, we may have been born somewhere else. Yes, we may have traditions and ways of seeing the world, which are different to those around us, but we’re Americans. Therein lies the essence of this imperfect but wonderful experiment called the United States of America — that from many nations came one, which is what we see in Latin within the Great Seal of the United States: “E pluribus unum.”

In today’s workplace, a hot topic is the issue of cultural diversity and tolerance for all, but I have found when taken to the extreme it can be incredible divisive. Why do so many human resource people feel the need to focus on the differences between us? Shouldn’t we be celebrating that which we have in common to get our work done?

On Saturday night, we enjoyed chin-wagging about our place of birth or cultural nuances, but the conversation soon switched to our love of the United States and why we like living in Southern California, especially the city of Santa Clarita. We spoke about the joys and trials of our respective marriages. We shared stories of the highs and lows of parenting in today’s upside-down and ever-changing world. We laughed. We reminisced. We spoke of aging parents and lost loved ones. As six individuals, we found we had far more in common than we initially thought.

Human resource departments around the world are the dinner party hosts. They have a duty to create the right environment for all employees to thrive so they can make their very best contribution at work. People are people, and all people at work want is the ability to earn money to provide for the needs and wants of themselves and their families. Of course, we want the workplace to be safe and free from racism, sexism or anything that causes hostility — that’s a given.

Where I believe some human resource officers are over-extending their reach is to force-feed some people with food they don’t want to eat — they encourage employees almost through subtle indoctrination to adhere to a diet of diversity, tolerance and acceptance of other personal choices, which has nothing to do with the work that needs to be done.

On Saturday evening, we had some leftovers, partly because there was just too much food, but also because not all dishes were appealing to each of us. Coming together to get to know each other better was the purpose of the evening and, secondarily, it was for the dishes we shared. Likewise, our work is our work, and although we need to be cordial and respectful to all, it doesn’t mean we should be force-fed food that doesn’t agree with us.

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 article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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