Why Gender and Ethnicity Issues Matter More Than Ever
Managing as a wise coach (and that's what this book is all about) consequentially guarantees more women and minorities getting mentors and taking full advantage of other career-boosting opportunities. When you're managing as a confident coach, you don't hesitate in assigning mentors to any and all of your performing employees regardless of their race, gender, or ethnicity.
You don't hesitate to groom them for promotions and furnish them greater and greater challenges. You don't refrain from promoting employees of all stripes because you are absolutely sure that your coaching methods are the right ones in developing highly competent, temperamentally suited, and peak-performing employees.
A coach need not be color-blind or gender-blind. On the contrary, a coach sees everything, evaluates everything, and considers nothing inconsequential with regard to decision making, finding solutions, and seeking positive outcomes to any and all situations in the workplace.
Nothing Is Inconsequential
While gender, race, or ethnicity shouldn't be factors in hiring or promoting people, don't believe these factors no longer matter in the workplace. When you sit down with a highly sensitive employee for one of your many coaching conferences, be it a get-to-know-you-better meeting, a performance planning session, a performance review, or a problem-specific chitchat, you treat your sensitive employee differently from the way you interact with the more thick-skinned employees in your ranks. And the same logical reasoning applies to matters of diversity.
Coaches, for example, have to acknowledge that foreign-born employees who work for them have distinct customs and perhaps see the world from perspectives a little different from the native-born. So, when you coach employees from alien backgrounds, you can't disregard these cultural realities. This doesn't mean you bend your workplace standards to accommodate foreign workers in any way. It merely means that you consider
Managing diversity is often a very challenging affair for some coaches. But it's not something that should ever intimidate you. It is, in fact, the managers who are intimidated in this area who tend to create more problems for themselves than need be. They either err on the side of condescending to diversity, for fear of getting branded a sexist or racist, or they preclude diversity because they don't know how to deal with it, and think that it's more trouble than it's worth. Both of these unseemly postures invariably explode in their practitioners' faces. If you don't manage diversity as you manage everything else, with calm and consistent assuredness, you will eventually have a mutiny on your hands.
If you seem to be twisting your standards and moving away from the all-important workplace meritocracy, you will lose your credibility in a heartbeat. If you show blatant favoritism on the other end of the spectrum, you will similarly be viewed as not living up to your own words and principles. The bottom line is, you must allow everybody to get in the game on your coaching field. That is, you must permit every employee to progress based on his or her merits. You must never construct any roadblocks based on gender, race, or ethnicity.
In all your coaching endeavors, it is imperative that you avoid the polar extremes of managing diversity issues. That is, don't condescend to diversity by granting special privileges based on gender, race, or ethnicity. Conversely, don't ever impede diverse members of your staff based on unfounded fears or prejudices.
If you always coach with a wise and understanding hand, you will come to realize that it is an even hand. Diversity will naturally occur in such a properly run workplace. And there will be no dark cloud hanging over your coaching efforts and raining down on all that you've accomplished in productivity.
There will also be no stigmas attached to those who are conferred more challenging job responsibilities, and those who get promoted and move on up in their careers. Everything that transpires will be based on merit.
Avoiding the Assumption Function
To keep you on the straight and narrow, there are a few things you must absolutely avoid practicing in your coaching duties. Stereotyping your employees based on gender, race, or ethnicity, for one, is a big no-no. Remove stereotyping from your thought process if you want to see diversity come to pass. In fact, coaches never work with the assumption function that everybody from a particular group does things in a particular way.
Take George, a department manager, who assumed a lot of things that just weren't so. He managed quite a diverse group. But he tended to parcel the greatest responsibilities and biggest challenges in job roles to the male members of his team. And when a highly able female in his employ, Laurie, questioned him on her perceptions that something was rotten in Denmark, George informed her that he couldn't afford any interruptions in the important job projects for which he was responsible.
Laurie couldn't quite figure out where George was coming from with such an explanation. What did “interruptions” in job projects over a period of time have to do with gender? Upon further pressing of her concern, George admitted that in his last job, he managed a team with an employee who left on maternity leave in the middle of an important project that was very dependent on her knowledge and skills. From that moment on, stereotyping consumed George's thinking and he assumed that every woman in his path was poised to begin or enlarge a family, cutting him adrift and causing overall performance to suffer.
Laurie apprised him in no uncertain terms that he was managing with a sexist stereotype and discriminating in the process. She made it clear that his stereotyping was not only far off base but against the law as well. Laurie told him to clear his head and alter his way of doing things and she would avoid lodging a formal complaint. Suffice it to say, George heaved a sigh of relief at her magnanimous offer.
Coaches don't work with the assumption function. That is, they don't assume that every member of a particular gender, race, or ethnicity does things in the same way. Similarly, they do not assume that a group doesn't possess particular skills or can't do certain jobs. Assuming such things are bad enough, practicing them is against the law.
If you assume that employees cannot do certain jobs or learn particular skills based on gender, race, or ethnicity, you're very silly and not coaching timber. You're also asking for a mess of trouble. Discrimination lawsuits in the workplace are routine these days and nothing to sniff at. This is something you've always got to be cognizant of while managing in the twenty-first century. Even if you view certain lawsuits as frivolous and without merit — and many of them are — it doesn't mean that they're not going to cause you and the company you work for a lot of heartache — and, perhaps, cost a lot of money, too.
In your work domain, it behooves you to adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward off-color humor, abusive language, and exclusionary practices of any of your employees based on gender, race, or ethnicity. Such a strict policy in place — and enforced — will make the office environs both a more productive and more serene place in which to work.
Communicating with and getting to know your employees are the building blocks that make coaching, the managerial art, rise like a colossus. If you permit groundless assumptions to preclude you from digging deeper and unearthing what your employees can do, you're being very shortsighted and foolish. And foolish folks with blinders on and silly prejudices don't make the coaching grade.
The glass ceiling is not a figment of people's imaginations. It hovers up above and does so because of exclusionary practices — conscious or unconscious — but exclusionary nonetheless. No employees, for any reason, should ever be excluded from opportunities to do their jobs and do them well.