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5 Ways to be a Better Coworker in a Diverse Environment

By Higher Education Recruitment Consortium
January 17, 2017
An image of diverse coworkers talking at work.

Successfully incorporating different perspectives into your workflow is essential in today’s higher education workplace. In order to meet the needs of your institution and diverse student population, you’ll need to have an open mind and awareness of the limitations of working in isolation.

Luckily for you, your workplace is likely bursting with unique perspectives and ideas to draw inspiration from. Here are a few ways to connect with your peers and to establish successful working relationships in a diverse environment:



1. Follow the Golden Rule

There’s a reason that the law of reciprocity (“treat others the way you want to be treated”) is found in many religions and cultures. It’s a great approach to all human interaction. While your interpretation may vary, a good way to put it into action in the workplace is through simple respect—in every interaction. Showing respect for others is one of the best ways to help create workplace harmony and encourage a productive exchange of ideas. Show respect by referring to others by their preferred form of address, learning how to pronounce their names, and acknowledging personal boundaries.


2. Ask what they think and listen

Staying open to new ideas and perspectives is key to fostering successful workplace relationships. Think of how often you have asked a question, only to tune out or interrupt the response with your own thoughts. Interrupting or ignoring others is a clear show of disrespect to which people from underrepresented groups are often subjected. To really hear what others are saying, stay focused. A good technique for avoiding misunderstanding is to repeat their message and give them a chance to correct you before responding or adding your thoughts.


3. Give all due credit

We feel valued when we feel that we’ve been heard, so acknowledge co-workers’ ideas and contributions. If you notice that certain groups or individuals are often overlooked, interrupted, or otherwise co-opted in the workplace, employ the signal-boosting tactic that women in the Obama administration successfully initiated: repeating and crediting each other’s ideas.


4. Find common ground

Rather than focus on the differences between us, engage with co-workers and you’ll soon find that you have more in common than not. Finding our commonalities can also have the added benefit of creating a comfort level that leaves us more open to embracing and leveraging our differences. Diverse experiences can be a huge advantage in approaching work projects with creativity and innovation.


5. Say thank you

It’s not just about minding your manners for the sake of social etiquette (though that’s also a good reason). Acknowledging co-worker’s contributions and saying thank you has actually been shown to boost self-worth and trigger more helpful behavior.


If you are ever in doubt about how to improve relationships with your peers, remember Maya Angelou’s words “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”


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