Before You Speak, Try A Little Diversity Training

Topics include:

Last week’s blog post received a big response. And with the repercussions of Microsoft

Karma: Making an ignorant statement that puts others in a box and ending up labeled yourself.

Karma: Making an ignorant statement that puts others in a box and ending up boxing yourself in.

CEO’s Satya Nadella’s comments still ricocheting around the corporate world so resoundingly, I wanted to spend a few more minutes this week to draw attention to the fact that cluelessness is not Nadella’s domain alone. There are plenty of people with attitudes that could seriously benefit from some diversity training. The first one that comes to mind is David Hantman, head of global public policy at Airbnb who says that his company has to deal with the issues that arise from change because: “This knee-jerk reaction of, ‘Oh my gosh, this seems new, we need to stop it, because we don’t understand it’ …. The only people who don’t are older. People who have less experience with technology and innovation and just like things the way they are.”

Bing Bing Bing! Ageism for 50 points! The same article in New York Magazine says “In Silicon Valley…it isn’t considered breathtakingly rude to call someone old and out of touch to their face, or to brush off their real-world concerns, or otherwise deem their lives irrelevant.”

That’s a shame.

Then there was Peter Shih, multi-millionaire tech founder who wrote about the top 10 things he hates about San Francisco including the homeless, the 49ers (not the football team but the women who score a four on his hotness test but consider themselves nines) and other startup guys. Perhaps he had a death wish. It definitely caused a boycott of his company.

Obviously, these behaviors aren’t limited to Silicon Valley, tech companies or startups. But in addition to CEOs getting sensitivity training, maybe they should be getting diversity training for all of the employees. Like their global heads of public policy.

You get the sense that these people never….ever thought about what is like in someone else’s shoes. Never, ever considered how they would feel about the fact that someone could just as easily take shots at their race, religion or—god forbid one day—age. That they are invincible.

You also get the sense that their world is one of little boxes. Guys who drive pickup trucks always listen to country music, fight gun control and wear cowboy boots. All people from Central America are somehow connected to drug cartels.

I recently held a diversity training and talked about people hiring those with criminal convictions. One exec raised his hand and said he didn’t want to hire a convicted criminal because it was important to him to hire someone who had a good character. So I asked him, what if the convicted criminal got a DUI ten years ago in college, and had done all kinds of community service and had a clean record since then? Or what if the convicted criminal was going through a really bad financial period ten years ago and wrote a hot check to cover her child’s school supplies and expenses, knowing the money might not be in the bank. And that that was the first and last time she’d ever done anything like that.

“Oh,” the executive said. “That’s different.”

Different from what, exactly? Triple homicide? Clearly. But the implication was that anyone with a felony in his or her past was a bad person. Forever.
Just like all homeless people are worthless and all pickup truck drivers are country music fans and anyone over a certain age is out of touch. Actually I know a couple of people who are significantly older than I am who were avid Tweeters before I ever thought of getting a Twitter account. I think of myself as quite youthful and hip, but that doesn’t make me tech savvy. Tony Hsieh once said while visiting Austin that he doesn’t like social media and prefers personal interaction.

It seems to make life easier, putting people in these little boxes, rather than learning, in diversity training, how to remain open minded and curious about them. Remaining non-judgmental. But actually, it isn’t easier. It’s just lazier and means you miss out on a lot of tremendous people and candidates. Plus you’re in graver danger of saying very stupid things that get your company in big trouble with the public.

Most importantly, we live in a global community filled with extraordinary people of all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, skill sets and more. Diversity training is just the right thing to do.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.

One Response to “Before You Speak, Try A Little Diversity Training”

  1. Hi Caroline! During my days in radio news, I often interviewed Silicon Valley “leaders” and from time to time heard them belittle others. And the farther the others were from the clueless one’s “station” in life, the more the others were castigated.

    It is most unlikely that the clueless ones would attend diversity training because they are unable and/or unwilling to check their arrogance at the door. They might send a deputy for PR’s sake, or order training for employees, but they won’t be there themselves.