Being Thankful for Diversity

Posted by Jada Jacobs on 11/23/16 8:00 AM
Jada Jacobs
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Posted on: November 23, 2016

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and most of us are thinking about what we will be cooking or what we will be eating! Some Thanksgiving-goers, however, are just trying to figure out how they are going to survive the holiday without conflict. Family and friends can have different ideas, perceptions, and backgrounds, and the Thanksgiving holiday can be stressful if you are not prepared. When thinking about how to approach this holiday, consider this: What better time to practice embracing diversity than at your family’s dinner table on Thursday!

At the same Thanksgiving table, many families will have multiple generations (from grandchildren to grandparents), cultural and political differences (extended family and friends), various dietary needs/preferences (diabetic, gluten-free, vegan, etc.), and competing priorities (those who want a full meal at the dining room table versus those who want to scarf down their food as quickly as possible so they can watch football). Even if the people at your Thanksgiving table have none of these differences, it’s probably safe to say that every guest is not the same.

The same is true in the workplace. Globalization and technology are bringing diverse groups of people together in all aspects of our lives. Our world is becoming radically smaller. I recently had breakfast at a friend’s house where the family used Skype to include their daughter who was studying abroad in Spain so she could help celebrate her dad’s birthday. We can now be together in the same room while being thousands of miles apart.

With these technological advances and world changes, it is essential for the workplace to embrace this diversity and foster an environment of inclusion. To move forward in today’s global environment, inclusion is not only the smart thing to do; it is an absolute necessity.


But don’t overthink it! The methods used to bring everyone around the Thanksgiving table are the same ones used to make sure all employees feel valued and respected in the work environment. Here are 3 things to keep in mind so you can make sure all employees feel valued and respected:

Everyone adds value.

Each member of your Thanksgiving guest list was invited for a reason. Each guest is special to someone and deserves to be treated with respect. Similarly, each employee was hired to contribute in some way to the company. Managers and leaders must learn to leverage employee skills, talents and abilities to contribute to the company's success positively.

Appreciate differences.

We can all agree that you shouldn’t ask your vegetarian daughter-in-law to try your smoked turkey that you just prepared in your new electric smoker. Acknowledging diversity is the first step, but it doesn’t end there. Think about the impact you would make if you added a new vegetarian dish, such as roasted cauliflower with brown gravy, to your Thanksgiving meal as well. For a few dollars and a little extra prep time, you could make your daughter-in-law feel included and demonstrate that her needs are important to you. If you and your other family members enjoyed the roasted cauliflower as well, you would demonstrate a culture of openness and inclusion.

Creating an inclusive workplace is very similar. It is not only about acknowledging differences but appreciating them as well. Obviously, there is a lot to be gained by approaching goals from different perspectives, ideas, and methods. To truly leverage this, business leaders and managers need to create work environments where being different is not only okay but in some cases is also celebrated.

Remember to focus on the big picture.

Like at your Thanksgiving meal with your family, the most important thing to remember is what’s important. Don’t let differences in opinions, beliefs, and perceptions ruin the time with your family and friends just because someone says or does something that you disagree with. When you focus on the reason you are gathered with family and friends—to celebrate and give thanks—disagreements and arguments do not matter as much.

In the workplace, the same holds true. The team is in place to benefit the company as a whole. When differences become obstacles to progress and growth in a company, it is important to pause and take a look at the big picture. Ask yourself, “What are the organizational goals and objectives?” “Are our current challenges significant or relevant to the company goals?”

There are more things that unite us than separate us. @JadaJTweets

Remember: There are more things that unite us than separate us. For the common good in both our daily lives and in the workplace, we achieve more together when we give everyone the opportunity to have a seat at the table.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Topics: Employee Management

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