Why Difference Matters And How Words Keep It That Way

Council Post: Diversity And Inclusion: Why Difference Matters And How Words Keep It That Way

To make D&I initiatives a seamless part of the business, HR can help employees figure out how to navigate, appreciate and leverage differences and to learn how words can get in the way of building and maintaining effective relationships. Difference matters when it comes to relationships and results, and words have everything to do with keeping people's differences relevant.

Difference matters because anxiety, biases and stereotype threats stemming from difference can get in the way of performance. For example, researchers in social science explain that, despite perceived social progress since the 1960s, acknowledging race is important because of three things: racial anxiety (i.e., nervousness), unconscious or implicit bias (i.e., open and/or hidden assumptions and associations) and stereotype threat (i.e., inability to focus and perform based upon a negative feedback loop ignited by anxiety about bias). Although the report does not assert these authors' findings are generalizable beyond their study, I am willing to hypothesize they are. I am also willing to hypothesize that a wide array of other differences matter for the same reasons, and words can help us acknowledge that.