How You Can Become a Leader Who Values Individuality

Do you supervise employees who are unlike yourself? Employees are unique with their own beliefs and cultural differences. A problem that can occur is your own bias which is the tendency to be partial to or prejudiced against a particular culture within the workplace.

As a leader, your values help you to create an engaged workforce. But values can get in the way when they link to cultural prejudices. How comfortable are you personally leading a group of people who are different from yourself?

Top 10 issues to consider:

  1. Age (ageism)
  2. Gender (male, female, transgender)
  3. Sexual orientation (straight, gay, lesbian)
  4. Disability (impaired, limited)
  5. Religion (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’i, Hinduism, Buddhism)
  6. Nonbelievers (atheists, agnostics, deists, skeptics)
  7. Ethnicity/race (white/Caucasian, black/African-American, Native American)
  8. Nationality (Italian, Latino, Asian, German, French, Russian)
  9. Accent (drawl, twang, brogue)
  10. Party affiliation (Libertarian, Democrat, or Republican)

If you have ever found yourself speaking to a coworker on a hot button topic, you know how difficult this discussion could become when they do not share your views. Although you may never discuss issues with staff that are not work related, every so often conversations pop up around the water cooler. And when they do, watch out because you never know what could happen.

Employees may be discussing party affiliation or whether they are for or against legalized gambling. Discussion can focus on who should get a tax cut and whether the size of government is too small or too big. As a leader, you are required to respect individuality and maintain a healthy workplace. What are your first thoughts when you are listening to employees discuss an issue and you totally disagree with them?

What does bias mean to you? Do you consider yourself biased? Are you predisposed to certain beliefs? Have you made a foregone conclusion about a certain member of your staff because of the place they were born or their manner of speech? Being biased against certain employees is a weakness found in some leaders and supervisors. Great leaders focus on their strengths that help them to alleviate this problem. They appreciate differences and gain the wisdom needed to control their emotional reactions. They pay attention to their own prejudices and are creative as they figure out ways to deal with their biases. If you consider yourself a leader who values individuality, what do you personally do to overcome any bias you have towards employees?