As MRA prepares to host its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Conference on May 18, I started thinking about the many facets of diversity. Certainly race, religion, gender, gender orientation, and ethnicity are top of mind. I also started to ponder this unique moment in time when five generations are working together, sharing a workspace, and trying to navigate different work styles and values. We sometimes struggle and joke about our differences, but generational stereotyping is a form of bias that is often not recognized or is overlooked. It is easy to slide into thinking in generational stereotypes— “millennials are slackers,” “boomers are technically challenged,” “Gen Xers demand work-life balance,” and “Gen Z only communicates via text.”
Stereotypes are all around us and are reinforced through the media and characters in television shows. Comedians build entire sets around them and they are regularly woven into our culture. Someone said to me once, “Stereotypes came from somewhere—they are based on reality.” That comes with a warning, however. They also can create a mental shortcut, so to speak, that allows us to quickly draw one or more conclusions about a person that supports the stereotype, without taking the time to learn more about the person, the individual.
To engage in diversity is to look beyond the stereotype and understand and respect our differences, particularly in the workplace. As HR professionals, this means we must uncover and challenge our own unconscious biases and be vigilant in recognizing, acknowledging, and celebrating the unique differences and value that each and every person brings to the organization. Those differences may become what sets us—and our companies—apart as employers of choice.