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If it ain’t broke, why fix it? April 30, 2012

Posted by Sneha Khilay - Blue Tulip Training in Uncategorized.
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I was recently invited to conduct a half day training session on Equality and Diversity for a charity that provides support to the homeless. The manager from the local office sheepishly admitted that they have recently appointed a (first) black woman to join the team. On making the announcement of the appointment, the manager noticed some raised eyebrows and tutting from some of her team members and decided that her team could benefit from Equality and Diversity training.

I was surprised that the manager even needed to announce the race of the newly appointed staff member. However I was equally concerned about the lack of previous appointments of staff from a black and minority ethnic background and the negative response from some of the staff members. The irony being that the community the charity serves has a diverse ethnic mix.  The manager acknowledged that the organisation hadn’t needed to look at Equality and Diversity matters in the past as it was considered not necessary. I got the sense that she was implying ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it?’

The value and pressure of providing evidence of equality into practice has been high on organisational and media agenda for over 12 years, especially after the Macpherson Report. This initiated the legal compliance for public sector authorities to prove that equality measures have been considered for implementation. Whilst I was not all together surprised by the request from the manager, I was certainly troubled that in this day and age this type of attitude from colleagues continues in the work environment with no discourse of responsibility and accountability.

So what would it take to ‘fix it’ when the general consensus in the organisation seems to ‘but there is nothing wrong’? To put it simply, we ensure that our cars are serviced regularly, a legal requirement for the car to pass its MOT, we nonetheless still  check that our cars are  in working order and more importantly safe to drive on the roads. In effect, by regularly servicing our cars, we aim to prevent the costs (and hassle) of expensive repairs and parts. So why is that organisations are not being proactive enough not just with Diversity ‘MOT’ checks but ensuring that staff, service users, contractors, stakeholders etc feel valued, respected, included and more importantly acknowledged?

It was obvious from its website that the charity has included equality and diversity as one of its underpinning values. What seems to be apparent is that senior management or indeed policy officers had not managed to change the mindset of its employees or modified the organisational culture. So whilst equality and diversity can and should be embraced at the top, it seemed as if managers grapple with how to actually manage the process. Some then take on the persona of; why bother, I have bigger issues to deal with, such as redundancies, budgetary restrictions etc’. Often managers do not promote, explore or discuss equality and diversity issues in their teams because they have not been asked to do so – this however should not be an excuse to avoid the issue.

IBM started its Diversity initiatives as early as 1960s, over 50 years ago. The emphasis on diversity continues to this day with managers scrupulously and continually striving to look at new initiatives and processes to ensure that equality, diversity and inclusion are maintained as the underpinning principles of IBM’s culture, ethos, values and practices. Its offices in Egypt are an excellent example. IBM provides female colleagues with drivers to facilitate women to work at IBM thus tap into an almost neglected source of talent.

It’s absolutely necessary to look at the ‘what if’ scenarios, not to a paralytic point, but at a healthy level. Innovation and creativity is derived by having different ideas and concepts which guide to better decision making processes.

Learning to accept the diversity and uniqueness of each employee will in turn generate feelings of trust and respect that could further lead to more productivity among employees, higher morale in the workplace and less conflicts and the time involve resolving them. Diversity is a fact of life. Learning to deal with it effectively and not fight it is the best way to advance the causes of business.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is the slogan of the complacent, the arrogant or the scared. It’s an excuse for inaction – Colin Powell 

Generally people believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features…..yet.

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Comments»

1. Jasmine Gartner - May 3, 2012

I wonder if the reason they were raising their eyebrows was for the same reason you were surprised – that this manager felt the need to announce the race of the new employee.

I remember being hired to do diversity & inclusion training by a manager who felt her staff needed it – what became incredibly clear by the end of the day was that they were fine – she was the one who desperately needed it!


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