I love my team. Swati is the creative lead and Pascal is on logistics. They work really well together but there are communication challenges I don’t know how to fix.
Madhu: Sounds like you have a lot of confidence in Swati and Pascal. What’s going on with communication?
Client: Communication with Pascal can be really hard. He has an awkward style and that can put people off. I’m scared to address it.
Madhu: What are you afraid of?
Client: I just don’t know how to talk about it without offending him. It’s delicate.
Madhu: What about it is delicate?
Client: I don’t want to alienate Pascal. We want to retain diverse staff and I’m afraid of saying something wrong.
Madhu: What do you mean by diverse staff?
Client: (silence and a nervous smile)
For very good reasons, we are often afraid to plainly name people’s cultural identities for fear of alienating them or at worst, giving them cause for discrimination complaints.
I understand this better than most. As a former HR professional, it’s been drilled into my very soul NOT to talk about legally protected personal characteristics. In the era of inclusion and belonging, it is essential that we learn how to engage with each other plainly and lovingly as whole people.
Focusing too much on the potential legal pitfalls of exploring identity has led to a terrible phenomenon: calling people “diverse” instead of saying who they really are. If we cannot name a person’s identities, how are diversity, equity and inclusion efforts supposed to work?
3 ideas for opening up culturally full conversations: