Using EI to Manage Workplace Diversity

November 27, 2017


Our world is undergoing a transformation, and there are fewer places where this change is more noticeable than the modern workplace. Today’s workplaces are made of up individuals from diverse backgrounds who have different perspectives and expectations about the working environment. As a result, there can no longer be a single “unwritten rule” that applies to everyone - our workplaces and employees demand better of us as leaders.


CEOs, executives, and managers are expected to embrace diversity and create inclusive workplace environments where everyone can feel heard, respected, understood, and supported.


How can you promote diversity and inclusivity in your workplace using emotional intelligence? Keep reading to learn how:

Step 1: Ensure Commitment From Management


One of the most critical components to ensure that your diverse workplace is functioning smoothly is for C-suite executives and upper management to commit to such goals and to lead by example. Leaders can do this by using their emotional skills to be authentic, innovative and insightful.


They can also use a coach approach by holding office- or division-wide meetings to listen to key stakeholders and to gather information and feedback about a plan before its implementation. This will ensure that everyone will be on board with creating a workplace environment that prioritizes diversity and inclusion.

Step 2: Assess and Evaluate Your Current Workplace


Before goals and initiatives can be created, it’s important to take time to assess your company’s current strengths and challenges. We suggest implementing a SWOT Analysis, which addresses your company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.


Some of the components you should work to understand include:


  • What structures are already in effect in order to support diversity management?

  • What challenges and obstacles need to be overcome to meet your goals?

  • How, if at all, is diversity incorporated into the company’s values?

  • Are there existing opportunities for diversity training?

  • If “yes” - how effective is the training?

  • Are there currently any diversity incentives or awards in place?


Having answers to these questions will help you identify the areas which need improvement, and can assist with forming a comprehensive plan of action moving forward.

Step 3: Invest in Training and Education


Training and education should always be viewed as a continuous process, and should be a foundational part of your company culture. While it’s important to ensure that your teams are trained on the latest advancements in their fields, investing in Emotional Intelligence training and awareness can help team members be more aware of each other’s feelings and emotions, and can improve workplace collaboration and productivity.


Unfortunately, most companies invest in training related to “soft skills” such as Emotional Intelligence only after a traumatic event has occurred, such as a sexual harassment or discrimination suit.  This “reactive” approach is often ineffective, and is a costly and backwards way of addressing diversity and acceptance policies and expectations in the workplace.


While technical and professional skills are important and a reflection of your IQ, research demonstrates that EQ is a better predictor of success.


Forward-thinking managers and leaders understand the value of frank, honest discussion, education, and Emotional Intelligence training as part of a strong workplace policy. They also know to regularly assess team members’ strengths and weaknesses, ensure that training is provided to fill knowledge gaps, and recruit new employees who complement and enhance workplace values such as diversity.


Step 4: Create a Supportive, Sustainable Work Environment


Creating a diverse workplace where all team members feel respected, included, and heard takes time, and requires ongoing efforts.  Daniel Goleman, internationally known psychologist and author of Emotional Intelligence, shares how diversity fuels group emotional intelligence.  How do we manage this diversity?  What are the characteristics of a manager who is inclusive and respectful?  Emotional Intelligence is beginning to play a more important role in diversity training programs by enhancing skills around interpersonal relations. Some of the emotional skills that are important include:


  • Empathy - recognize, understand, and appreciate the feelings of others

  • Problem solving - the ability to solve problems where emotions are involved

  • Social responsibility - the ability to contribute to society, to one’s social group and the welfare of others


Developing and maintaining mutually satisfying relationships is now, more than ever, important for leaders and managers who have a responsibility to ensure that their workplaces look as diverse as possible.  After all, diverse teams are more innovative and outperform more homogenous teams, which increases the company’s bottom line and helps create safe and productive work environments where every team member feels respected and supported.


As a leader, the initiative starts with you. Are you ready?


If you’re ready to take the next step on your leadership journey, contact us about our Emotional Intelligence certification programs and training. You can also subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter for the latest news and insights into organizational change, the use of Emotional Intelligence in the workplace, and resources for forward-thinking leaders just like you.


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