Diversity Ambassadors

Kindness in the Workplace

Diversity ambassadors already exist in your organization. It may not be a formal position or title, but every employee of any organization can be a diversity ambassador. As we move into the holiday season and different cultural festivities take place, we are reminded just how important it is to recognize and celebrate one another’s backgrounds.

If you happen to have a Jewish colleague, tonight, September 26th,  begins our Rosh Hashanah new year holiday. If you’d like, feel free to send them an email or text and wish them “L’shana Tova” or a happy new year.

“May you be inscribed for a good year.”

I grew up in a small town in Vermont. There were no other Jewish families in my town so every year I would have to explain why I was missing soccer games or tests or other fall events to celebrate our most important Jewish holidays. The Jewish calendar never syncs up well with the secular calendar, and sometimes as a teenager that was very frustrating. Because others didn’t recognize the dates as important in our culture, I often felt singled out as different.

Over the years, I learned to be a Jewish ambassador. No one is going to recognize my holidays if I don’t share them with others. So, I started sharing. As a parent, I often had to ask if a back-to-school night or other fall school events might consider a different date so there wouldn’t be conflicts with the Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur is 10 days from now and is part of our High Holiday season as well.

In more recent times, I’ve also had to turn down work because the meeting was planned on a Jewish holiday.

Fast forward 30 years…

Now, people often ask me questions about Judaism. What do we do on a specific holiday, or what kind of a gift is appropriate to give a bar or bat mitzvah child?

I have always been proud to share my Jewish traditions and customs and I love learning about other people’s religions and cultures.

In the workplace, diversity means recognizing that we aren’t all the same and yet we are all equal. During my recent, virtual program with a multinational bank, I learned that to plan their events they must consider more than a dozen different countries’ national holidays before scheduling a date. Can you imagine that?

And yet it is essential because employees from every country matter.

How We Work With Different Cultures

In the United States, there are plenty of companies that see diversity merely as a check box of compliance. It’s unfortunate, they are truly missing the mark.

Each person in your organization brings unique perspectives, ideas, and valuable knowledge to the table that is crucial for your organization. Employees with differing world views and experiences could be seen as a huge advantage and not just satisfying a regulation. Perhaps they could even offer a different perspective on solving a company problem.

You also will likely learn from each other. During my recent program, I asked the participants from 13 different countries to share a gesture of kindness that is important in their country. I am not sure why I was surprised but FOOD was mentioned by many participants. Food is a global gesture of kindness. Food is love and acknowledgment, we bring meals when there is birth and death, and we cook in celebration of special holidays. Welcoming diversity means acknowledging each other’s uniqueness and finding commonalities as well.

To all my Jewish colleagues, L’shana Tova. Let this holiday season be a reminder to empower your employees to be their own Diversity Ambassadors. You might be surprised with the progress it could result in for your teams.

To learn more about Diversity Ambassadors, join the conversation with us on Linked In. Then, reach out to me to talk more about how kindness can strengthen your workplace culture.