Podcast

In this episode of The Forum Podcast, Luiza Dreasher (Mastering Cultural Difference) offers practical concepts and strategies to keep in mind when communicating across differences.

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Nowadays, organizations are actively seeking to diversify their workforce, not only because of the impact of demographic changes but also because of the proven benefits diversity brings. Unfortunately, as our workplaces diversify, so does our level of discomfort in working across differences. Many of us feel unprepared for such encounters and, as a result, end up widening the diversity gap. For example, we may say something and unintentionally offend someone. Other times, we say nothing at all because we are afraid to say the wrong thing. We may also wish to take action when witnessing an act of intolerance but lack the skills to educate in an effective and respectful manner.

In this podcast, you will gain understanding about how comments such as, “I don’t see color,” and many others impact coworkers despite good intentions, learn strategies to help increase your diversity skills and competence, and develop an action plan for improving your effectiveness around diversity.

Learning Outcomes
  • Identify key concepts to keep in mind when communicating across differences
  • Acquire effective strategies that will help take the adversity out of diversity dialogues
  • Develop an action plan for improving your effectiveness around diversity and building more inclusive work environments
Resources

Handout – THE DETRIMENTAL IMPACT OF MICROAGGRESSIONS IN THE WORKPLACE

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Transcript

SPEAKER 1:
The Forum and Workplace Inclusion Podcast is sponsored by U.S. Bank, embracing what makes us unique creates more possibilities for all. Learn more at usbank.com /diversity U.S. bank member, FDIC equal housing lender. You’re listening to the Forum on Workplace Inclusion podcast. Register for our next diversity (INAUDIBLE) presentation, Race, Politics, and the Workplace. This presentation will take place on October 29th at 12:00 pm central daylight time. The presentation is an online video conference format. For more information and to register, visit forumworkplaceinclusion.org.

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BEN:
(BACKGROUND MUSIC)Hello and thank you for joining us for today’s podcast. You hear or say something offensive then what? Strategies for increasing your effectiveness around diversity (INAUDIBLE) Dr Louisa Drescher of Mastering Cultural Differences. I’m Ben Rue program associate here at the Forum on Workplace Inclusion. Nowadays, organizations are actively seeking to diversify their workforce. Not only because of the impact of demographic changes but also because of the proven benefits diversity brings. Unfortunately, as our workforces diversify, so does our level of discomfort in working across differences.

BEN:
Many of us feel unprepared for such encounters and as a result, end up widening the diversity gap. For example, we might say something and unintentionally offend someone. Other times we say nothing at all because we are afraid to say the wrong thing. We may also wish to take action on witnessing an act of intolerance, but lack the skills to educate in an effective and respectful manner. In this podcast, you will gain understanding about how common such as I don’t see color and many others impact co-workers despite good intentions.

BEN:
You’ll learn key concepts to keep in mind on communicating across differences, acquire effective strategies that will help take the adversity out of diversity dialogues. And an action plan for improving your effectiveness around diversity and building more inclusive work environments. Dr. Loisa Drescher the president and CEO of Master and Cultural Differences.

BEN:
She designs and implements customized programs for organizations that want team members to understand cultural differences and work well across those differences. As a contributing writer, her writings focused on transformative solutions for equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Her upcoming book, Mastering Cultural Differences Strategies for Leading a Global Workforce. Provides incredible insight into differences impacting today’s culturally diverse workplaces and identifies best practices for increased performance in a global economy.

LOUISA:
Well, hello, everyone. I feel very privileged to have been invited to be part of the Forum’s Podcast community and to share some thoughts about finding the courage to be an ally in standing up for inclusion, be it in the workplace or out in the community. For those of you who don’t know me. I am Louisa Drescher I’m president and CEO of Mastering Cultural Differences. I work with individuals and organizations that want team members to understand cultural differences and work well across those differences. In fact, my upcoming book, Mastering Cultural Differences Strategies for Leading a Global Workplace.

LOUISA:
Was written to help individuals work effectively across all differences impacting today’s global workplaces. You might be detecting on the accent. I would like to say it’s because of being in Minnesota for too long, but that’s not the case. I was born in Brazil but have been in the US for many years now. And I also have had international experiences in Spain, Ukraine, Japan. So I consider myself Brazilian by birth, but multicultural by choice. I would like to start by asking you to imagine a couple of scenarios. For example, you’re having lunch at work with a few co-workers.

LOUISA:
One of them is your good friend. Let’s call him John, whom you’ve

LOUISA:
You have seen the members of your team often make jokes about Gabriella behind her back. Not only that, but they generally blame her for any misunderstandings or miscommunication problems. What do you do? Imagine your team is finishing up a meeting where you have been putting together the final touches on a very important presentation for a potential client. At the end of the meeting, your supervisor turned to your African-American colleague and says, “(UNKNOWN) I need you to do something with your hair everybody needs to look professional tomorrow”.

LOUISA:
Would you say something to your boss? What about if you are the one who said something inappropriate and you wish you could take that back? Unfortunately, these types of situations are far too common today, both inside and outside the workplace. In fact, just this past January, a high school senior in Texas was told he should not come back nor, would he walk in graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks. And even more worrisome is the fact that as our workplaces or our societies become increasingly more diverse, so does our level of this conflict in working across differences. So when you say something offensive or you hear something offensive, the most likely outcome, unfortunately, is the same.

LOUISA:
You say nothing either because you are afraid to say the wrong thing or because you don’t know what to say. But saying nothing only contributes to widening the diversity gap. So my goal is that by the end of this podcast, you will understand how certain comments impact others. Despite their good intentions. You will learn a few concepts to keep in mind when communicating across differences, and you will acquire a few strategies you can use to facilitate a dialogue and improve your effectiveness around diversity. Because with the right skills and courage you can you stand up for inclusion.

BEN:
Thank you so much for that wonderful introduction. Standing up for inclusion (INAUDIBLE) in increasingly diverse workplaces. As you pointed out in those examples, what do we have to do to start to embark on that journey?

LOUISA:
Well, first, I think we need to understand what we are talking about, statements that offend, insult or make individuals uncomfortable or invalidate someone’s culture are called microaggression. In the book Microaggressions in Marginality by Derald Sue, he defines microaggression as the everyday verbal, non-verbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults. Whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely on their group membership. Michael Barends from Inquest’s Consulting argues that there is nothing micro about microaggressions.

LOUISA:
In fact, he prefers to call it subtle acts of exclusion. The problem with microaggressions is that they occur outside the level of conscious awareness of perpetrators. In other words, they are unaware of the hidden message that is also being delivered. Many times they are disguised as compliments of example, when a manager praises the only African American team member for her excellent contributions to the team by saying “saying black community should be proud of you you”. Unconsciously, message being transmitted is that for the manager, blacks are not as capable or as and the is whites, exception to her group.

LOUISA:
It is very clear that in today’s workplaces, different groups are still experiencing different realities. In fact, in the 2018 Women in the Workplace report, the authors highlighted some of the gender-based microaggressions women are still facing. Results in that study show that 64% of the women indicated having experienced microaggression. They are more likely than men to have their competence questioned, be overlooked or spoken over, more likely to have others take credit for the ideas, and more likely to be mistaken by someone else at a much lower level.

LOUISA:
Results are even more alarming for women of color and lesbians. In fact, 71% of lesbians indicated having been the recipient of microaggression. They are also far more likely than other women to hear demeaning remarks in the workplace about themselves or others like them. I agree with Michael

BEN:
Thank you so much for that. Now that we’ve talked about microaggressions and how different groups experience them in the workplace. I’d like to spend some time discussing the impact of microaggressions on individuals. How does it affect us individually?

LOUISA:
I can think of at least five ways microaggression impact individuals, first of all, microaggression make individuals feel like they don’t belong. For example, when you ask someone, where are you from? You’re making an assumption because whether you hear an accent or because of the way they look (CROSSTALK). But we know that question is what are you really saying is that you don’t belong, you’re an outsider. And research shows that Asian descendants experience this type of questioning far more often than whites, even though they could be 4th generations US Americans.

LOUISA:
So the solution, if you don’t have the relevant information, just don’t make any assumptions. Another impact is that microaggression make individuals feel invisible. This happens to women a lot when they get interrupted, spoken over, or when someone takes credit for their accomplishment. As we saw in this study I mentioned earlier. Another way, individuals are made to feel invisible is when they hear, for example, I don’t see color. Your intention perhaps is that by eliminating the color difference you are trying to show you are a fair-minded individual or that you are not biased. But the fact is that you are eliminating a significant aspect of their identity, their race, and therefore all their life experiences.

LOUISA:
You need to understand and skin color or any other difference is not a problem. It is what you do or say after you notice differences, that is important. Another fact impact that microaggression to individuals feel like there is something wrong with them or like they are a burden. For example when you are asked to change your name because it is difficult to pronounce. I have seen this happen countless times with international students. I was reading an article by the Harvard Business Review where a Latina executive was sharing a time when she had been asked to anglicize her name at work, so she talked work. So she went on to talk about my father, who died when I was young, chose my name.

LOUISA:
It is one of the few things I have to him, and I’m not willing to let it go. I am twisting myself into a pretzel to adapt to my company’s culture, and they can’t budge an inch to call me by my given name? So, in fact, according to a study published by the Center of Talent Innovation, Innovation. Most in the US do not feel they can bring their authentic selves to the office. The authors found that the vast majority of Latin (INAUDIBLE) 76% of them, they repress parts of their personas at work. They feel they have to modify the appearance, their body language, their communication style if they are ever to be considered for a leadership position.

LOUISA:
Another impact microaggressions make individuals feel inadequate. For example, when you say “you are soo articulate, you speak the language very well”, heard it many times. In your mind, you’re probably paying a compliment because you are really impressed by their verbal skills. By the way, the individuals are genuinely surprised when others take offense at this compliment. They cannot see what they went wrong on this one. What’s really happened is that the individual you are praising does not fit the stereotypes you have of that particular group.

LOUISA:
You obviously underestimated their capability and will come across as you are for more competent and intelligent than I initially presumed. So if your intent is to pay a compliment, you can just do so by simply saying great job, nicely done. This will convey the message. And one more thing, this thing, this directed at individuals whose primary language is not English, it will likely be taken as a compliment. However, if directed at individuals whose English is their primary language, for example, a 3rd generation Philipino that is.

LOUISA:
Of course, they speak without an accent. They were born here, they have lived here, they their lives. Again, you really have to be cautious about the assumptions you make. So far, I have how microaggression to make feel, that feel. For don’t belong, make them feel invisible belong, like a burden or they’re inadequate. One last impact I want to touch upon is that microaggression is make individuals feel they’re not normal. I worked many years in Academia where I worked primarily on recruitment worked retention of students primarily on of and recruitment color.

LOUISA:
One of the things that I heard a lot from my multiracial students is that they were frequently asked, what are you? Which clearly objectifies them or even your mix? As if they were a breed at the zoo. When individuals ask questions, it is because they are curious about someone’s ethnic background, Usually, cannot discern certain features that they see. The problem is that it becomes exhausting to have to educate others on your multiracial background, especially because, no one believes you. And then they start to cross-examining you. Really?

LOUISA:
A white person will not have to go into details to say. For example, my mother’s family come from Germany, my father’s side come from England. They were seeking a better opportunity in the US and that’s why I’m white with green eyes. In other words, there is no obligation to provide ancestral tree-like multiracial individuals have to do. And that’s because whiteness is considered the norm. So the solution accept peoples response. It’s not our job to play detective if they choose to (INAUDIBLE) their response great.

BEN:
Now, before we discuss specific strategies (INAUDIBLE) how individuals can step up for inclusion?

LOUISA:
I started this process by giving a few scenarios and then asking you, what do you do in this situation? For example, when someone tells a joke, you consider it inappropriate. It could be racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-Immigrant. What have you? So what do you do? What choices do you have? Usually, one of two things happen. Number one, individuals choose to be a bystander, a bystander is a person who witnesses harm that is happening, but ignores the harm being done and takes no specific action to minimize, reduce or stop it.

LOUISA:
And one interesting thing we need to watch for the (INAUDIBLE) is the bystander effect. It occurs when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening when witnessing a microaggression occurring. In other words, they hope someone else will step in and do something about it. Fact studies show that the greater the number of bystanders. The likely it is for any of them to step in and provide An Assume when way can step in for inclusion is to be an ally. An ally is a person who voices or otherwise demonstrates moral and emotional support for someone to whom harm is being done,

LOUISA:
An ally is willing to get uncomfortable. They use their privilege to elevate the voice of those who are being marginalized. They call out racism, sexism, homophobia. When they see it either by pulling people aside, helping them see the negative impact of their words in the unintended consequences, and also showing them that there is a better way. So

BEN:
Thank you so much for that. Allyship is so important for the work of inclusion. That it’s one of the four pillars of 2021 conference Active Allyship. Now, the fun part. Can you share with our audience some specific ways of how they can speak up in a productive way? In other words, how can they stand up and be an ally?

LOUISA:
Sure. But first, let me be honest with you speaking up, that is knowing how to address someone else’s hurtful comments or jobs or comments that are biased, demeaning, or prejudiced. They can be difficult and many people want to speak up but fear they up say the wrong or don’t know how to approach the conversation. Unfortunately, staying silent only allows his attitudes and behaviors to thrive. Because silence can be interpreted in many different ways, including indifference or acquiescence.

LOUISA:
And failure to speak up, can take a toll on you as well. You will spend a day thinking about I should have said something, why didn’t I speak up? I could have said X, Y or Z. So I wanted to redirect this energy so you can respond effectively next time instead of staying silent. Because the fact is a simple phrase or a question on your part can turn the conversation from destructive to productive. And who knows, being the first one to speak up may inspire someone else to do the same. The key is to interrupt the behavior in a manner that opens up a conversation and does not diminish the speaker.

LOUISA:
Calling someone a racist, a homophobe, a sexist will not work. So here are some things that you can do. Number one, you can explain the impact while assuming good intent on the part of the speaker. In other words, start with the assumption that the person is a decent human being, but clueless about the impact of his or her words. I call them the Archie Bunker syndrome. You go around offending people, having no clue that you’re doing that. So you can say something like, I know you mean well, but that really bothers me, or I’m sure you meant that to be funny but that joke is offensive. Unfortunately, some people actually believe that.

LOUISA:
If the person who is doing the harm is your superior I would suggest speaking to that individual in private. You can say something like Mr. Johnson, everyone knows that you are committed to the success of this organization. Did you realize that what you said in the meeting today was offensive? Can I give you my perspective? This way you acknowledge the person’s positive extension intentions, which is key to providing non blaming feedback. I’ve also met a good starting point is you approach the person who has been offensive, demeaning, or discriminatory as if he or she did not intend to harm.

LOUISA:
Another strategy, for example, you give them a chance to reexamine what they said by asking non-blaming questions. Because sometimes people don’t realize what they have said. So you can ask questions like, what do you mean when you say, isn’t that like a marketing person, for example, to say that? Or it sounds like you were saying that Brenda is too old to learn a new software. Is that what you really mean? Or can we get back to what you said a few minutes ago? You mentioned immigration and the increase in gun violence.

LOUISA:
Are you suggesting that the two are linked? Again the key is to give individuals a chance to think about what they’ve said while giving them the benefit of the doubt. Strategy number three, sometimes all it takes is a redirect in the conversation. This is an indirect way to point out that the language used was demeaning and inappropriate, so when someone says” I’m not prejudiced against oriental people, I just don’t have any oriental friends”.You know, that this is an outdated and considered a bigoted. You know that in the US, the term has been used to reinforce the idea that Asians are seen as forever foreign and could never become true Americans.

LOUISA:
In fact, according to Erika Lee, author of The Making of Asian America A History. These were the ideas that helped to justify immigration exclusion, racial discrimination, violence, segregation. So using this term perpetuates inequality, disrespect and discrimination towards Asian-Americans. So you can redirect with the correct terminology and say,

LOUISA:
Another example of redirecting would be, let’s say you hear someone describe attendance at a nondenominational event by saying,” I’m so glad both Christians and non-Christians attended the ceremony”. The implication here is, Christianity is the norm, so you can redirect saying, “I’m to hear that among those who attended the ceremony were Muslims, Jews, Christians, and others”. Number four, another low-risk way to react is to ask lots of non-threatening questions.

LOUISA:
For example, what do you mean when you say that? What are you trying to say? I don’t think I heard you correctly, could you elaborate? What is that leads you to say that? Again, you’re not placing blame. You are providing the opportunity to go deeper in the conversation so you can understand where the individual is coming from as opposed to reacting by saying. “Why the world would you make such an offensive statement, statement,” that will shut down the conversation.

LOUISA:
Number five, you can also help the individuals see the absurdity in his or her statement, especially when they are generalizing. Because, well, certain behaviors may be true for an individual. It is not true for everyone in the group. For example, when someone says “The front line personnel in this firm doesn’t care about providing quality services”. Typical stereotypical statement. So you can say, “Don’t you know any frontline personnel who do care about providing good services?

LOUISA:
You’re trying to seek contradiction there, helping them see the absurdity of their statement. Then you can go deeper, which frontline personnel you’re referring to? Make it individual It’s not about all of them. Another example will be when someone says immigrants are lazy and don’t even try to speak English. You can comfortably say, “actually, I’ve met dozens of immigrants who have learned English, who are trying to learn, do you know how hard it is to learn another language?”.Is there someone, in particular, you were trying to communicate with? You sound very frustrated.

LOUISA:
So you help them see that they are generalizing and it’s not about everyone. Strategy number six, sometimes you need to pause the action with feedback, feedback. In words, you describe the situation in the behavior you observed. And you give feedback on the impact that he had on For example, you say can when you made that lazy immigrant comment that really hurt as one of the many non-native speakers in this firm, firm. Then can go in explaining the impact of your words. In word of caution here. here you should for speak someone else.

LOUISA:
You can show the impact. That he had on you, not on someone else, now you’re getting power or (INAUDIBLE) to speak up. Perhaps, by standing with him or her by being an ally. So, so far, we have talked some of the strategies that I covered. We talked about. You start by assuming good intent, reexamining the statement, redirecting the conversation, asking non-threatening questions, helping them see they are stereotyping, and pausing and giving feedback on the impact of the words.

LOUISA:
The Last strategy I want to share is that sometimes you may have to interrupt the conversation, someone says there “There any women in this type of high level of expertise that we can bring into the project. project?”.You counter by saying, “let’s not assume that the women won’t have the skills we are looking for. Let’s look at everyone in the pool and then make our decisions based on what we actually discover”. Or someone starts by saying an offensive joke. For example, how many does take to… well, let’s not go there that inappropriate.

LOUISA:
And there are many times when you will need to walk away, remove yourself from the situation until you can gather your thoughts. Now moving before moving on I want to share some strategies now. What if you were the one who said something offensive or you were the one you are the offending party, what can you do? First, recognize what you did, don’t explain, don’t negate, don’t minimize it by saying I didn’t mean it, it was only a joke, lighten up.

LOUISA:
That is not going to help your cause. Just apologize for your defensiveness with gratitude. See, this is an opportunity to learn about the impact of your words that they had on someone else. And this is also an opportunity for you to grow and recognize that there’s still work you need to. Self-awareness is the number one skill you need to have if you want to become culturally competent.

BEN:
Those are such great strategies that we can all use. I mean, we can all be allies, but we sometimes can be the offenders as well. So thank you for covering both sides. Well, you’ve gone over the impact of microaggression, ways Individuals can react. And you’ve provided some wonderful strategies individuals can use to speak up and react in a way that educates and invite dialogue. Do you have any final thoughts?

LOUISA:
Sure, here are some key reminders. Remember that even a well-intended people can cause harm. So when you say something offensive or hurtful, acknowledge it and accept responsibility for your words. Let go of your mistakes, it prevents you from moving forward, taking risks, and learning, staying stuck in your guilt accomplishes nothing. You need to understand that words matter, recognizing how individuals are impacted by words.

LOUISA:
Clears the way for better communication, the sooner you understand the impact of your words or actions, the sooner you will transform the quality of your interactions. To avoid what I call the open mouth insert foot syndrome, (CROSSTALK) take a deep breath and more importantly, listened attentively, seek to understand, and only then take time to formulate a respectful and compassionate response. So there is a lot that has to happen before you respond.

LOUISA:
Keep in mind that just because you acknowledge someone’s experience, it does not mean you have to agree with it. And finally, before you take action, ask yourself, is this an effective intervention? Am I my seeking to educate? Is it being done in a respectful manner? Never, ever confront acts of intolerance in a disrespectful manner because that will only widen the divide. So hopefully these strategies and tips will encourage you to step up and be an ally in an effective manner.

LOUISA:
I would like to end by sharing something that John Lewis, who just passed away in July 17, what he said, when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, have to speak up, you have to say something. And this is my hope for those of you listening to this podcast that you stand up and speak up on behalf of those who need help, have the courage to move from a bystander to an ally. Hopefully, now you have some strategies to do it in a productive way.

LOUISA:
Before we end, I would like to share with the audience if you want to learn more about this topic. Here are some resources that I used that you might find useful as well. Look at in the book 35 Dumb Things Well-intentioned People Say by Dr. Maura Cullen. It’s a great book great read. Another one is Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts Communicating Effectively in a Diverse World by Leslie Aguilar. There’s also an article that I wrote The detrimental impact of microaggressions in the workplace. In fact, if you would like a handout with a summary of the strategies and the tips, then you need to keep in mind when addressing micro microaggressions.

LOUISA:
As well as a copy of the article that I just mentioned, The Detrimental Impact of Microaggressions in the workplace with a list of things that you need to stop seeing and better alternatives. Just email me, my email is louisa@masteringcultural differences.com. To request the copies just podcast handouts on the subject line and I’ll be more than happy to share a handout and a copy of the article with you. So thank you very much for this opportunity.

BEN:
Thank you so much for that wonderfully insightful conversation (INAUDIBLE). If you’d like to learn more, please visit masterandculturaldifferences.com or email her directly at louisa@masteringandculturaldifferences.com. Dr. Drescher is also graciously offering two giveaways for her article the Detrimental Impact of Microaggressions in the Workplace and a resource (INAUDIBLE) Standing up for Inclusion.

BEN:
This (INAUDIBLE) outlines the impact of microaggressions and seven strategies for shifting the conversation. It is a companion to go with this podcast. Once again thank you so much, Dr. Drescher and thank you for listening. You can listen to more of our podcast (INAUDIBLE) or on Apple podcasts, Spotify Anchor, and Stitcher. Thank you again for listening. Have a great day.

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SPEAKER 1:
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