Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Managing Nonprofit Diversity Conflict

Diversity has become the goal at every level of American life. Efforts to promote it have been rightfully applauded. Here's the real question: Are organizations correctly handling these efforts?

One reason people flock toward nonprofit jobs is the diversity in culture and the working backgrounds they support. There is a bigger lesson organizations missed if they are only promoting diversity for diversity's sake. In his book "The End of Diversity as We Know It," Martin R. Davidson argues that a better aim is to embrace and build upon differences among employees.

Davidson, who was a chief development officer at the University of Virginia, also acknowledges that diversity initiatives can cause resistance and even conflict among employees. This can manifest itself in what Davidson calls "identity abrasions," feelings of resentment or defensiveness that come up when people are criticized for being insensitive or ignorant. He wrote that to make these teachable moments positive experiences for all parties involved, he recommends human resources officers implement five "principles of behavior." They are:
  • Pausing: There is a natural tendency to react, but taking time to identify feelings and consider options helps in responding effectively to criticism.
  • Connecting to larger goals: Meaningful goals make it easier to remember why it is worth engaging with another.
  • Questioning yourself: This will help you come to a realistic and accurate understanding of what is happening in the exchange.
  • Seeking out balanced support: Rather than just complaining to your friends who will have your back, seek out the counsel of trusted colleagues.
  • Shifting mindset towards opportunity: It takes persistent willingness to be introspective.

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