by Dr. Charlita Shelton

University of the Rockies

More and more companies and corporations are taking diversity seriously and are creating diversity departments within their organizations. Diversity officers are in turn establishing diversity initiatives with the goal of creating an inclusive work environment.

For individuals in an organization to embrace the concept of diversity, a level of trust needs to be established. Trust is formed when an organization shows commitment to diversity by alleviating employees’ fear of being judged or ridiculed because of cultural or personal differences.

“Everyone comes to the table with their experiences based on many different factors that help to shape them as human beings.”

Diversity training raises the consciousness of employees and is one way to break down barriers. Individuals need to have an understanding of each other’s norms, values, and belief systems. Everyone comes to the table with their experiences based on many different factors that help to shape them as human beings. We are all different, and those differences make us all diverse.

In the past when I have conducted diversity training, I had participants who were reluctant to voice their perspectives, because they perceived diversity training as something that only addressed people of different races and ethnicities. For example, a white male may not understand how to contribute to the dialogue of diversity if he has a preconceived notion that somehow he is not a diversity partner. In actuality, diversity is all inclusive. Diversity experts Marilyn Loden and Judy Rosener adapted a model called the “four Dimensions of Diversity.” These dimensions are described as:

Personality. These are the elements that shape and form a person’s persona.
Internal Dimension. These include age, ethnicity, race, and gender. These are elements considered to be obvious.
External Dimensions. This could be geographic location, marital status, work experience, educational background, or religious preference.
Organizational Dimensions. These include areas such as management status, division/department, political association, seniority, or work location.

Immediately after covering these dimensions in training, individuals who felt that they may not otherwise be included in the dialogue with regard to diversity lowered their guard and their level of trust increased. Why? Because diversity is inclusive of everyone!

To build trust across diversity lines, an understanding of what diversity truly is becomes imperative. All stakeholders must believe that they are diverse in their own way and contribute to an organization’s “tapestry” of people who bring a level of richness to the workplace. Before trust can be established, one must feel safe within their environment to be who they are. And, they must feel included and valued

Dr. Charlita Shelton is the president of University of the Rockies, a graduate school specializing in psychology programs at the master’s and doctoral levels online and at its campus in Colorado Springs, Colo. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the university offers a new master’s and doctorate degree specialization in Organizational Diversity.