Human Resources Management Articles on a variety of HR topics, Diversity and inclusion, leadership and more, offered by the Red Shoe Movement

Cultural Diversity at Work: How Things Are Changing

Cultural diversity at work has become a battleground for innovation in organizations large and small. Don’t miss key insights from Stephen Palacios, who’s been conducting research on the topic for the last 15 years.

Stephen has particularly deep experience in the multicultural space and leads that practice at Lieberman Research Worldwide (LRW.) He also has extensive experience in brand positioning and brand strategy development. He is a national speaker, and has been an editorial contributor to AdAge and HuffingtonPost. His work has been cited in the NYTimes, LATimes, Financial Times, ABC, PBS and many other programs and publications. We appreciate the fact that for the last several years, Stephen has been working with women’s publications such as Essence and People En Español to better understand professional, multicultural women. So, when it comes to cultural diversity at work, he has a lot to share.

Stephen Palacios, general manager and VP at Lieberman Research Worldwide sheds insights on cultural diversity at work

Stephen Palacios, general manager and VP at Lieberman Research Worldwide sheds insights on cultural diversity at work

Recent studies around cultural diversity at work

You’ve recently finished two major studies related to cultural diversity at work. Could you explain what they were centered around?

Working with Essence and with People En Español, both studies focused on African American Women at Work and Latinas at Work, respectively. These studies were the vision of Essence’s Michelle Ebanks and People En Español’s Monique Manso.

Understanding cultural diversity at work means learning to navigate conflicting priorities for each individual in your team.

Understanding cultural diversity at work means learning to navigate conflicting priorities for each individual in your team.

What were some of your biggest “aha” moments? Particularly in reference to cultural diversity at work?

Each study highlighted how significant the role of ethnic identity was in the workplace, for both the individual and her workplace non-ethnic counterparts. Both African American and Latinas have to contend with perceptions of their ethnicities. Whether it be trying to avoid being labeled an “angry Black woman” yet still being heard for an African American woman, or avoiding being seen as over sensualized for both Latinas and African American women, these stereotypes found in popular culture affect workplace dynamics for many ethnic women. Each study went into some depth on workplace communication styles, dress, cosmetics, and other factors of demeanor and appearance that were actively or less consciously being used to navigate cultural identity with workplace identity.

Don't miss "What Is Cultural Diversity?" to learn much more about this topic!

How are cultural norms changing for Latinas and how is this shift affecting them?

The biggest cultural norm shift for Latinas, as found in several Hispanic Opinion Tracker (HOT) Studies by People En Español, is the drive toward careerism. Latinas are obtaining higher education at unprecedented levels, and are entering the workforce with high expectations and ambitions. Their self stated priorities are shifting, as they see career in a more important light, even when compared to traditional roles of wife/mother. This shift is paradoxically creating tremendous optimism on what is possible but also creating cultural tension with their mothers and significant others. Latinas are coming into their own, and are finding it challenging to reconcile their ambition with their traditions.

How about African American women?  

African American women have been leading the charge on women’s issues in the labor force for over 40 years. Their workforce penetration, head of household status and educational achievement have always been lead indicators for women in the U.S. Having said this, they too have rising expectations on success in the workplace, with greater expectations of being their “authentic selves” at work. Expressions of cultural identity such as natural hair, style and more are coming to the fore more often. Black women, especially Millennials, are looking to have their identity recognized and valued more by their place of employment and their fellow employees.

What you need to know about Cultural Diversity Training. Does it work?
It's critical to understand cultural diversity norm shifts to support your team.

It’s critical to understand cultural diversity norm shifts to support your team.

Recommendations around cultural diversity at work

Do you have any recommendations to increase sensitivity towards cultural diversity at work? Mainly when it pertains to women of diverse backgrounds?

Employers would benefit greatly by understanding the cultural dynamics and tensions associated with their Black and Latina employees. Essence found 4 dominant communication styles for Black women at work in the study, each of which led to greater potential for retention and advancement, or not. Black women who understand these communication styles can better identify their personal approach to workplace dynamics. It is equally important that non-Hispanic White employees/employers to be aware of these styles as well. For so many non-Hispanic Whites, the issue of ethnic identity is rarely a factor of consideration in inter-office communication or office culture building – it needs to be.

Any suggestions on how employers can better engage multicultural women?

Start by reading these studies! They are (all modestly aside) insightful, comprehensive, but practical in their use. For non-Hispanic White employers/employees understanding the cultural identity better, devising strategies to celebrate the contribution ethnic employees can make, and incorporating this into an overall office culture is increasingly important. Particularly for those hiring Millennials, and for those in certain industries, e.g. Healthcare.

You can follow LRW on Twitter

More insights from the HOT study on Latinas.

Your personal brand already exists. Are you aware of it?

When I ask the members of our Step Up Plus program “what is your personal brand?” most of them stay quiet. They are not sure if I mean the 30-second elevator pitch or something else entirely.

The difference between a 30-second elevator pitch and your personal brand

Your 30-second elevator pitch is more like the ad you can thoughtfully put together to explain who you are, how you impact others, what you are good at, what your goals are, etc. The main difference between your elevator pitch and your personal brand is that you control 100% your pitch. You can’t control 100% of your personal brand because it’s lives in people’s heads.

Your personal brand is quite different from your 30-second elevator pitch.

Your personal brand is quite different from your 30-second elevator pitch.

What is your personal brand?

Simply put, your personal brand is how others perceive you. It’s the image other people have of you. Their experience of you. What makes up your reputation. A collage, if you will, of aspects including your:

  • Presence
  • Behavior
  • Personality
  • Values
  • Sense of humor
  • Speech patterns
  • Relationships
  • Ideas
  • Appearance

And a lot more. So, sure, there is certain amount of control you can exercise over people’s perception of you. You can adjust things like your behavior, the way in which you present your ideas, the kind of relationships you keep, and how you dress. But what about your personality, your sense of humor, or your deeply held values? Those are much harder to change.

Live by your word and you'll build a powerful reputation and memorable brand.

Live by your word and you’ll build a powerful reputation and memorable brand.

Here's a great video on personal branding.

Whether you want it or not, your personal brand already exists

So, why not finding out what it is. A simple, yet effective exercise to get a clear picture of how others perceive you is to conduct your own market research. Send a brief note to a group of 5-10 trusted colleagues, bosses, and even friends. The message should go something like this:

“I’m evaluating my personal brand and would appreciate your insights. Would you share with me the first few sentences or adjectives that come to mind when you think of me? For example: You are hardworking. You are punctual. You seldom join your colleagues for social events. You like to stick to what you know.”

By giving people clear examples of characteristics that are frequently considered positive and others that are not so positive, you show that you want honest answers. It makes people more likely to be open with you. Review the answers you receive and try not to take them to heart. Use them to inform you about your personal brand. Then ask yourself:

Figure out what makes you unique and sharpen your personal brand. You bring it everywhere with you whether you want it or not.

Figure out what makes you unique and sharpen your personal brand. You bring it everywhere with you whether you want it or not.

Do these answers fit with what I think of myself? And also, is this the type of personal brand I need to fulfill my current and future career goals?

If your thoughts about yourself are quite different from the perception of you out there, you may need to work with someone to help you figure out why. This is a good time to consult your mentors.

Here’s the story of a woman who built an amazing brand for her business. Mariebelle. Don’t miss it!

If the perception out there doesn’t support your career objectives, you have to look at the areas where you can make adjustments.

The following suggestions can help you make the largest impact on your personal brand in the shortest time.

1Make your word sacred. When you promise something, deliver. If you know you can’t, don’t commit to it or negotiate a more reasonable deadline. Every time you break your word you affect negatively your personal brand. So avoid putting yourself in this situation at all costs.

2Evaluate the people in your inner circle and aim for top quality relationships. Are they helping you with your brand or imprinting a negative vibe to it? Remember the idea of “guilty by association.” If you hang out with people others respect, they will respect you. I don’t need to tell you that the opposite is true too.

3Be aware of your behavior at all times. A big part of your brand is people’s experience of you and with you. So ask yourself: Do you take advantage of others? Do you criticize others? Laugh at them? Are you ready to lend a hand? Do you volunteer in company projects? Are you dependable? Do you brighten people’s days? Do you think of about what makes others happy? There are a million questions along these lines that can help you figure out how your behavior might be impacting your personal brand.

4Work on your appearance. Whatever your personal style, looking well put together and clean go a long way. Check out our Business Attire Guide for valuable posts on how to use accessories, how to dress for casual Fridays, and so on.

If you are happy with the results of your personal brand research, the only thing left to do is to reinforce it. And using your brand to your advantage.

Here are a few suggestions:

1Leverage your uniqueness. Bring that which makes you different to every role and every position you apply to. Consider this: When you think of your favorite product or person, a salient characteristic comes to mind. That’s how people should think of you. The inspired leader. The change maker. The woman who helps others soar.

2Find initiatives where your personal brand ads value. Where can you make a difference? For example if your brand is: “the multicultural, consensus-building leader,” you can approach a team in need of exactly that.

3Constantly build your brand. If Starbucks stopped offering comfortable chairs, wi-fi and coffee, you’d probably stop going there for meetings, right? They’ve established themselves not only as a coffee house, but as the “third space.” Neither the office nor home. Well, your brand is who you are. If you hurt it, people will stop thinking of you as their first choice when an opportunity comes along.

First Lady Michelle Obama is known for her generosity, her inspirational style and an ability to get things done at a large and small scale. How well is your brand known?

First Lady Michelle Obama is known for her generosity, her inspirational style and an ability to get things done at a large and small scale. How well is your brand known?

As you see, you are inseparable from your personal brand. There are things you can adjust and others you can’t. By tweaking those you can, you will strengthen others’ positive perception of you. In the end, that’s what will always open doors.

Consider signing up for our Step Up (individual) or Step Up Plus (corporations) Programs to further develop your personal brand and many other key soft skills critical for career growth. That’s what we do best.

Is flattery interfering with your career goals? This story is a wake up call!

If flattery can get a millionaire man to completely change his mind about who he funds for president, what can it do to women in the workplace?

I literally stopped in my tracks. I was out for my morning walk listening to one of my favorite podcasts, This American Life. The episode was called Get Your Money’s Worth and part of it was dedicated to the story of Doug Deason, a Dallas millionaire and his father Darwin Deason, a billionaire. It was about their search for a Republican candidate to support for President of the United States.

The Deasons had budgeted 2 million dollars for this election cycle. After a thorough vetting process where they met with each candidate, they first endorsed Rick Perry and then Ted Cruz. They had such dislike for Donald Trump that the thought of vetting him didn’t cross their minds.

Even when you know someone is using flattery to get something, it's hard to resist its allure.

Even when you know someone is using flattery to get something, it’s hard to resist its allure.

But when faced with the reality that Donald Trump would become the Republican nominee, Doug and his dad set up a meeting with him. Doug prepared a list of questions for Trump (similar to the ones he’d been asking all the other candidates before he decided who to support.) Only that, when he met with Trump, he didn’t get a chance to ask much. Why? Because Trump used flattery to win over him and his dad. Just like that. With plain, old flattery.

This is part of the transcript of Doug’s comment to Zoe Chace, the podcast’s producer and reporter right after the Deasons met Trump: “…he kept complimenting Dad on me, (…), ‘I know how great it is to be able to turn something over to your kids, and let them run it, and let them do it.’ Which, obviously, is what I do. So it was nice to be complimented, right?”

They walked out of that meeting believing that Donald Trump was nice. That he had their same mindset. He thought like a businessman. Forget all the reasons for which the Deasons had decided to never even vet him. A brief meeting peppered with the right flattery, complimenting a dad on his son, was enough to shift the destination of millions of dollars. Because money begets money. And when a couple of billionaires bet on one candidate, many others tend to follow. Which is exactly what happened.

Way too often women are happy with being told they are doing a great job. But is that enough?

Way too often women are happy with being told they are doing a great job. But is that enough?

The story stopped me in my tracks because I had a long-held belief that men were less susceptible to flattery than women. But they are not. And in fact, an amazing study of 451 CEOs (which we know are mostly men) showed that high levels of flattery lead to opinion conformity. Which means that CEOs “become over-confident in their strategic decisions and in their ability to correct performance problems with the current strategy.”

The study revealed that CEOs subject to flattery were more likely to believe they were better leaders. But this was not confirmed by the firm’s performance data. The authors of the study said that firms with flattered CEOs were less likely to change strategy when performance dropped.

What’s most disturbing is that studies have shown that even when you consciously know that the flattery is BS (as most CEOs surely do,) the subconscious impact remains.

So, if this can happen to a CEO, someone who is trained and experience in the art of identifying BS, where does it leave you?

It’s time to ask yourself if flattery is interfering with your goals.

How about: "You look like you know exactly where you are going!"

How about: “You look like you know exactly where you are going!”

Most people seem predisposed to flatter little girls. “You look so cute!” “What a pretty dress!” “I love your hair!” As of late, we’ve been hearing more and more about the effects of praising girl’s appearance and boy’s achievements or behavior. But the truth is that we all grew up appreciating flattery and putting a lot of weight and value on it.

As a matter of fact, we are now in a constant state of pursuing flattery. Think about how you feel when you post a picture on social media and receive only a few likes. Your ego takes a nosedive, doesn’t it? Well, it maybe time to stop with the selfies for a minute and reflect on how seeking and receiving flattery might be getting in the way of what you really want. Primarily at work.

Here are some comments from clients and colleagues (who will remain anonymous) to help me make this point.

“My boss told me he couldn’t have finished the project without me.”

“My supervisor was incredibly impressed with how well I manage the company’s external relationships. Everybody knows me when I walk in the room and she finally saw that. She told me, ‘I now realize how hard you’ve worked for the organization all these years.’”

“I rolled out the Business Resource Groups in our organization two years ago and they are showing very positive results. So my boss told me I had a powerful vision and an uncanny ability to execute. Then she asked me to replicate the same model in Latin America. And this is not even my main role.”

What happened when promotion time came around? Did these women, who had received the most flattering comments from their supervisors, get their due? You guessed it. Nope. They were asked to do more for the same pay. Yet they didn’t even think to ask for more. The usual answer when I ask why, is: “Oh, I’m happy to do it.” Or “I love what I do and money is not all that matters.”

This begs the question: Are women so satisfied with being flattered that they are willing to forgo money they deserve? Is getting a great compliment enough?

Even when flattery is blatant and you the motives of the person using it are obvious, you can't avoid its subconscious effects.

Even when flattery is blatant and you the motives of the person using it are obvious, you can’t avoid its subconscious effects.

Remember: Knowing that someone is using flattery to get something from you (even when the ulterior motives are evident,) doesn’t protect you against its effect. So next time your supervisors flatter you for going above and beyond your job description, take the compliment. Enjoy it. Use it as an ego boost. And then write down exactly how you want to leverage your contribution, and the fact that it is being recognized as such, in the next salary negotiation. Or to get that stretch assignment you’ve been pining for.

And as usual, if you’d like to work on this and other key skills to help you move to your next career level, check out our Step Up and Step Up Plus programs. They have proven to work marvelously!

 

Climbing the ladder: What women don’t know

Why aren’t more women climbing the ladder at corporations and organizations of all kinds? It’s the million-dollar question. If you really want to change the status quo, read on!

We’ve been debating this question for a long time. Mostly because it’s unfathomable that so little change has happened in decades. Are women not climbing the ladder because of a personal decision or because of organizational biases?

Climbing the ladder: Three responsible categories, not two!

Let’s look first at two, broad categories that most commonly take the blame for making it hard for women climbing the ladder.

Organizational responsibility 

There is an array of factors that deliberately or inadvertently impact the number of women at the top in a negative way. These include barriers such as unwritten rules, policies, expectations, and perceptions of what constitutes leadership potential, executive presence, etc.

For instance:

  • Often, women are not offered advice or training on business, financial and strategy which is key to reach the highest levels of an organization.

    Often, women are not offered advice or training on business, financial and strategy which is key to reach the highest levels of an organization.

    Expectations that in order to reach the C-suite you must be available 24/7. Or work late every night to entertain clients.

  • Expectations that women are still mostly responsible for family matters.
  • Perceptions of men being more competent or having more executive presence.
  • Regular skepticism, push back and challenges of women’s ideas and competences.
  • Fill-in positions through recommendations of current executives in office. (These tend to be white men and have a network with a similar make-up.)
  • Value face-time in the office for promotions(penalizing people who are mobile.)

Personal responsibility

This group of factors includes your own behaviors and decisions that impact your career trajectory.

For example:

  • How assertive you are in your communication and leadership style.
  • How strong your network of sponsors is.
  • How hard and often you negotiate for yourself along your career.
  • How visible you and your accomplishments are to key people.
  • How comfortable you are taking risks.
  • How important other pursuits outside of your career are for you.

Now, in trying to figure out which of these two categories is more responsible for women not climbing the ladder, we keep pointing fingers with little visible results.

The truth is that here’s a third category that connects Organizational and Personal. One that we haven’t paid as much attention as it deserves. One that can really make the difference.

Joined Responsibility

Climbing the ladder requires women to leverage all their assets and know as much about the business of their organization as possible.

Climbing the ladder requires women to leverage all their assets and know as much about the business of their organization as possible.

This category is the space where both individual women and organizations share responsibility for more women not climbing the ladder. Due to the way in which organizations have traditionally perceived and promoted men and women, and social norms affecting both genders, some advice and training fell through the cracks. Companies didn’t offer it. Women didn’t ask for it.

This advice refers to the expectation that a person must have certain abilities in order to reach C-level. Advice that hasn’t been verbalized as often to women as to men. And women haven’t asked about it either. Here are the areas that may be holding you back at any level:

  • How focused you are in business outcomes. (Both the outcomes of your own role and on how they impact the overall outcomes of the business.)
  • How closely you align your role in the organization with the business strategy. (Can you answer why the company is paying your salary? Hint: Think of the “why” you do what you do.  Not the “what” it is you do.)
  • How much financial acumen you have. (Do you know how to affect the company’s bottom line within your own role? At any level, it’s important to understand how what you do affects the financials of the overall company.)
Check out Susan Colantuono’s brilliant book on this topic!

Mastering these three aspects will make it easier for women climbing the ladder to get to the very top. If you are a manager, supervisor or an executive, you may need to start sharing this type of advice with your subordinates. Offer them coaching and training programs to fill-in any gaps in knowledge. If you are an individual contributor, this is your call to action. Don’t let one more day go by without seeking help in this area. Here is a great, very inexpensive Business Foundations online course, taught by Wharton Business School.

It's important to understand how your role supports the overall business strategy.

It’s important to understand how your role supports the overall business strategy.

As women, we already have many of the advantageous characteristics that make for a successful 21st Century executive. Make sure you don’t overlook the business, financial, and strategic abilities that are taken for granted at higher levels. You may not have thought about them much along the way and they may be the one thing that’s holding you back.

 

 

 

 

 

Cross Cultural Mentoring: Mentoring 2.0!

Cross cultural mentoring relationships offer unique opportunities to broaden perspectives and reduce unconscious biases. Here’s how they work.

Given the rapid changes in workforce demographics, understanding the potential challenges and opportunities created by a cross cultural mentoring relationship has become as critical as finding a compatible mentor.

Try cross cultural mentoring to receive insights into your unconscious biases.

Try cross cultural mentoring to receive insights into your unconscious biases.

The Blackwell Handbook of Mentoring defines cross cultural mentoring as “relationships where mentors and protégés differ on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, socio-economic class, or other group memberships.” Note the definition goes beyond race and ethnicity to include other social factors that shape mentors and mentees values, beliefs, and behaviors. This broader, more comprehensive way to define cross-cultural mentoring is the core factor to identify the challenges and opportunities this new scenario presents.

Why is this important? Gaining a clear understanding of the dynamics of cross cultural mentoring provides a layer of information that could enrich the development and launch of mentoring programs and proactively address potential blind spots.

Challenges of Cross Cultural Mentoring 

Any type of mentoring relationship– from peer mentoring to a more formal set up (i.e. experienced and junior individuals)—will encounter the challenges of starting a new relationship. It takes time to develop and cultivate trust. Interactions between mentors and mentees are influenced by underlying biases, assumptions, and beliefs. When you add the element of culture to the mentoring experience, unforeseen challenges could emerge. Two challenges come to mind:

  • If you are looking for an honest cross cultural mentoring relationship, you definitely have to go beyond the food. But going out for a bite is a great way to get the conversation going!

    If you are looking for an honest cross cultural mentoring relationship, you definitely have to go beyond the food. But going out for a bite is a great way to get the conversation going!

    Biases and Assumptions. Research shows that every single individual has unconscious biases. The ability to be biased allows individuals to discern information and make decisions. Biases could jeopardize a cross cultural mentoring relationship when either mentor or mentee make wrong assumptions about each other because of their biases. For example, a mentee could assume that her mentor—because he is older—is less experienced and tech-savvy. A mentor could assume that her mentee is unfamiliar with American popular culture because she was born outside the U.S. Both circumstances could lead to condescending behaviors—also known as micro aggressions. Behaviors based on unfounded biases can take many forms. A senior leader in the financial services industry said when asked about her current mentee, “I don’t see her as Indian because she has no accent.”

  • Differences in values, beliefs and expectations. Historically, mentoring programs have relied on matching pairs who are as similar as possible. The logic was that people who are alike (i.e. same race, gender, ethnicity, etc.) would have a higher degree of fit and compatibility. Once pairs are matched, the focus shifts to setting expectations and goals. A mentoring pair that is cross cultural would benefit from taking a step back and learning what expectations and goals look like to each other individually. For example, an expectation is to have an open door policy. The mentee, however, places a high value on formal authority and believes that rank trumps any other directive. Her expectation is that the mentor will initiate communication despite the open door expectation. This could lead to frustration and create an unnecessary distraction if not addressed proactively.

Opportunities of Cross Cultural Mentoring

Ready to move to the next level of your career? Experience what it means to be supported by thousands of professionals like yourself!

Ready to move to the next level of your career? Experience what it means to be supported by thousands of professionals like yourself!

Despite potential challenges presented by a cross cultural mentoring relationship, there are opportunities to consider:

  • Perspective and mindset tune up. Engaging in a cross cultural mentoring relationship provides a rare opportunity to broaden perspectives and mindsets for both parties. The mentee—from the previous example–who identifies herself as Indian but has no accent could leverage that exchange to discuss with her mentor that the lack of accent does not determine her cultural affiliation. The mentor, in turn, has the opportunity to become aware of this bias of assigning an American identity to those with no accent.
  • Innovation partnership. When two people with different backgrounds are invested in a mentoring program, the benefits of mutual mentoring become clear. What a better chance to brainstorm on new ideas than with a trusted thinking partner. Building on the trust cultivated through comparing and contrasting their beliefs and assumptions, mentors and mentees could strengthen their bond by directing their conversations to topics beyond career advancement and office politics. They could consult each other on business issues. Their different perspectives become a potential asset to fuel out-of-the box solutions.

Engaging in an effective cross cultural mentoring experience (HBR: Race Matters) goes beyond going out for mojitos or Thai food. Cross-cultural mentoring not only offers the opportunity to learn about others perspectives and expand your own. It also helps mentors and mentees become more agile in their thinking as decision makers and leaders.