Remember that saying: “When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME.” That is something that we should all keep in mind in relation to our colleagues.
Hand to your heart – what assumptions do you make when you meet a new person in a work setting?
Do you assume they are heterosexual or cisgender?
Do you make assumptions based on their name or skin color?
Do you assume that they share your lifestyle?
It is very human to think of yourself as someone who has typical tastes, beliefs or lifestyle. There is something very comforting in a sense of belonging, when you can rest assured that people around you share similar values and preferences.
But think for a moment: what would it feel like to be in an environment where every day you would be constantly reminded that you DON’T belong? That you are somehow fundamentally different from everyone around you. That you perhaps try your best to keep your difference a secret so as to not stand out in a negative way.
Sounds extremely stressful, no?
In an organizational culture with a very strong implicit assumption of homogeneity – that is, when people automatically assume that their colleagues are similar to themselves – people who do not conform may feel very unsafe.
And when you feel unsafe and stressed and like a weirdo, it is difficult to put in your best work performance. What’s more, a homogeneous organization culture does not foster creativity, new ideas or critical thinking.
This is why it is extremely important to make a conscious, organization-wide effort to embrace diversity. When people feel safe to be their authentic selves, they have more energy to put in their actual work.
So, enough with the assumptions.