What’s Under My Burqa – Part 2

What was I afraid of?  My body stiffened on the deep steep incline of an underground station escalator. What was more frightening was the travelling stranger who ferociously yelled, “Go back to where you come from!” “You don’t belong here!” “You’re trouble to our country!”

I suspect the bright, coloured scarf on my head triggered the commuter’s moral and ethical response to waging a war on “terror”.  The irony of that moment was fear was real for us both. I internalised the fear of a physical construct whilst he expressed his fear to what I represented.

Are you able to identify fear in your workplace? Are your employees internalising fear or does it manifest in uncertain behaviour? Though an instinctive response, beware fear may secretly fester and present itself in the workplace.

If unmanaged, fear can destroy your teams, reputation and your organisation.  According to a Gallup survey loss of productivity can cost organisations billions of dollars. What are the indicators? Are your employees happy and working well together? Or is there high employee turnover, conflict and stress resulting in increased absenteeism and poor performance?

The following Triple ‘A’ approach helps eliminate fear, promote an inclusive culture and ensure happier employees.


Step 1: Appreciate
Diversity means different things to different people. In simple terms, everyone should accept and appreciate the diversity of each individual as unique and embrace differences. Look around. Are you aware no two people are the same. The world is made up of billions of people with different shapes, colour and sizes.  Not only do people comprise different races, abilities, lifestyle choices, religions, ages and gender, they offer an incredible mix of culture, languages and experience.

How can you show you appreciate and respect differences? The absolute minimum is to design a diversity and inclusion strategy unique to your workforce.  Global champions committed to diversity and inclusion include Deloitte, Google, Accenture, Lend Lease and PwC. Their ability to commit, value and address the uniqueness of their human resource has led  to tangible business outcomes and opportunities.

Only after an in-depth analysis of all people in your organisation can you truly understand the value of diversity. Do your employees come from different backgrounds, possess different points of view and are unique in talent and capabilities? If so your role is to facilitate cohesion and unity within the many strands of diversity represented in the workplace.  Strands may include some or all of the following; gender, disability, LGBT, cultural and racial, religious or generational.

When you appreciate and respect individuals for being unique you reflect a culture of embracing differences, inclusion and a respectful work environment. As a result employees are more engaged which can lead to increased creativity, innovation and profitability. What can you do to reflect you appreciate your diverse workplace?


Step 2: Annihilate

Don’t plan to deter bad behaviour – annihilate the fear preventing people from engagement. In other words, be proactive and address any potentially damaging situation head on.

Do you or your employees feel an increased level of stress? Poor health, high absenteeism, complaints and poor performance are indicators that something is not right and over time disharmony sets in. You, I and everyone in-between has permission and the control to derail all kinds of fear in the workplace. We all have an obligation to enhance the health and wellness of all individuals. Listening with your ears is not enough. Open your heart and act on what you feel is inappropriate behaviour.

Fear lurks in everyone’s subconscious and contrary to what you may think, you hold the key as you are in the best position to deal with negative situations and circumstances. Act from a place of certainty.  Exercise your leadership qualities of proactive listening, problem-solving skills and professional judgement. Set zero tolerance to any form of discrimination, bullying and harassment.

Racial fear may stem from ignorance, intolerance or illusions, therefore effective communication is critical. Open and honest conversation creates awareness of the unknown and chips away at fear, a toxin in the workplace.  Combined with an appreciation that everyone is unique in their ancestry, perception and experiences don’t be surprised to discover your hidden capabilities. Don’t doubt your ability to successfully stamp out negative behaviour leading to increased employee engagement.

Curious to know the last step?  Next week you’ll learn the last of the Triple ‘A’ approach to What’s Under My Burqa.


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