Sensitivity In Diversity and Empathy In The Workplace
“Get the hell out of my face!!!” Exploded Liz in irritation and aggravation.
Liz is an above average good looking blonde first generation American. She has Bolivian parents and is a 27-year-old professional who recently got hired by XYZ Company.
Prior to the above explosion, at a casual company social event, Liz’s new close colleagues debrief, “It’s already time to start the event and Liz is late. Go figure.” Going to their assigned round table, they see that Liz is sitting down scoping through the crowd. “We thought you weren’t here yet,” said John as the rest of the group started sitting down to accompany Liz.
As the night progresses, in hopes to get to know Liz better, Nicole asks: “So Liz, I heard that you are Mexican. How do you say “I work at XYZ Company” in Spanish?” Before Liz is able to reply back, Nicole is pulled aside to help her boss with an urgent task. After about 30 minutes, Peter, another close colleague, to engage the table in conversation, tells a Blonde Joke. Feeling a bit uncomfortable with the joke, Liz politely asks Nicole, “What do you do in your spare time?” To which Nicole replies, “I typically do some work at home and then hangout with family and friends. How about you? I heard you have a son… Do you spend most of your time at home taking care of him?”
For over 12 years, Liz faced those conceptual instances over and over again. Fed up with all the assumptions and generalizations, Liz exploded in irritation and aggravation, “Get the hell out of my face!!!”
You see, Liz had a low self-confidence. Growing up she spent most of her time and created friendships with white americans to blend in, but always felt like the outsider and not good enough or pretty enough. Additionally, Liz strived to make it on time to her commitments. Furthermore, she was Bolivian descent, and not Mexican. Because her parents wanted Liz to completely emerge in the American culture, they never spoke Spanish to her; which meant she didn’t speak Spanish. To further point, for being a blonde woman, people often treated her as if she was ditsy, yet throughout high school and college she was in the top 10 percentile. Finally, although a single mother, Liz was not complacent. Her past work history shows that she is a top performer, highly involved with the community, and a side entrepreneur.
Remember one of those wounds you got while playing in your teenage years? What was your natural reaction like when people would get near it? What happened when the first few people accidentally got in contact with it, making you feel the pain yet another time? What would your reaction be like to the innocent 10th person who accidentally somehow poked your wound? Although your intention is to be as understanding as possible, eventually all of those wounds/instances will be too hard to withstand. No matter how sweet, nice, or overcautious that person was towards you, you explode at them!
The person who has the wound protects it at all costs. Even more so, when that wound had been disturbed time after time, the less tolerant the wounded person would be towards the outsider who provoked the accidental pain.
Overtime, we are all victims of being wounded physically and psychologically. Some people cope, and control, better than others with the wounds they have. Thus, promoting awareness on this topic has many positive implications (relationships, productivity, customer satisfaction, etc.).
As I continue to grow as a person and professional, I’ve used some successful approaches to avoid “Liz exploding”. I’ve often sought understanding first. Listening and creating empathy would become part of the process. Eventually I’d share experience-based, data-based, and truth-based perspectives in hopes of providing the adequate remedy to heal the wounds.
What other thoughts would you add to this post? I am interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments below.
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About the Author
Mike Sprowl is becoming the most sought after Readiness & Flourishing Coach and Consultant in the coaching community. He is famous for helping clients find a direction, implement personalized pathways, and facilitate flourishing and growth so that their lives are meaningful and purposeful without being negative.