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True Diversity in the Workplace Needs to be a Two-way Street

Values are not universal; they are shaped by our experiences, relationships, and situational context, but because values are often linked to deeply held personal beliefs, they can be cause for discrimination or misunderstanding in the workplace.

Recently, several Daily Work job seekers were terminated from positions due to this conflict. Here are few examples:

  • A  job seeker was told by a hiring manager that he intended to extend a job offer, only to have it rescinded after the job seeker disclosed he was homeless in a casual conversation as he was leaving the interview.
  • This same job seeker was terminated from a position 6 weeks into a new job because he would arrive too early for work or leave too long after his shift ended due to limited bus service to his employer's location. He never missed a shift and was never late for work; he only sat in the break room while he waited for his rides.
  • A job seeker from Ethiopia was terminated from a position he had held for six years after he questioned an assignment. He stated that he was told that it is "his f---ing job to do as he is told and to not question his 'leader'". When he was given his termination letter, he thought he was coming to a meeting to discuss the assignment in question.
  • An African American job seeker was terminated a week after starting a new job because a former employer, from a job he had held eight years ago, stated that he was not eligible for re-hire (many employers do not even check criminal convictions older than 5 or 7 years).

Prior to their terminations, none of these job seekers were informed that there were any issues with their performance.

While it could be argued that these employers had legitimate reasons for their actions, I think it also demonstrates both ignorance and lack of flexibility regarding the challenges that many job seekers face today. According to Neil Kokemuller, a college marketing professor, "People with differences have natural barriers in communication and relationships."

At Daily Work, we coach people every day about the values prized in the American workforce and about how to communicate in ways expected by employers. Our job seekers strive to do just what we coach them to do, no matter how different it is from their own life experiences.

If employers are truly committed to diversity, it's time for them to both hire diverse employees and seek to understand and know them as fellow human beings, especially when differences arise. This isn't just good for employees either, hiring and training new employees takes time and money, and retaining employees who are already on board, will produce a better bottom line for the company, too.

The Mall of America is a great example of one employer trying to better understand and apply new tactics to retain employees. Many of Daily Work's job seekers are experiencing similar challenges. One of our dreams is to help educate employers about how to better communicate with and retain employees with diverse backgrounds. For true diversity in the workforce to flourish, it needs to be a two-way street.

To read about the Mall of America's efforts, check out the story in the Star Tribune Tribune: Mall of America goes out of its way to retain employees

I love sharing our job seekers success stories, but the path to good employment is long and hard. Your support is even more important to the people above, who need a helping hand, even in the face of disappointment and setbacks.

Julie HoffThank you for your partnership,

Julie Hoff, Executive Director

 

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