I want to tell you a story…
A long awaited ballet performance was about to start. The Glasco Rose dance company did an extraordinary job selling all 500 tickets and excitement filled the room. As the curtain pulled towards the ceiling, a hush filled the theatre. The show would only last about 90 minutes but the masterful choreography was worth every penny. Upon the last bow from the ballerinas and the conclusion of the orchestra reprise, the crowd erupted in celebration. The applause was deafening and the standing ovation lasted for what seemed like hours. Five hundred people standing in awe at what they just saw.
On the contrary, the other side of the curtain was quite a different sight. The stage hands were drenched in sweat and exhausted from physical labor. Unlike the jubilation from the crowd, they felt relief. Relief that the show was finally over. Relief that they are finally able to sit down. And Relief that their aching feet and strained backs could rest. It was palpable. The stress finally lifted as the show they worked tirelessly on for months went off without a hitch.
The difference between celebrating and supporting is clear. To celebrate means to praise widely, to observe publicly, and to commemorate. To support is to serve as a foundation, to undergo, or to endure with patience or submission. I present to you this ballet story not because of my love for the ballet, but to use it as a metaphor for how we treat diversity in the workplace. When I look at various articles, blogs and posts on LinkedIn, it seems that celebration and support are used interchangeably. They shouldn’t be. Similar to our ballet story, merely celebrating diversity does not necessarily propel it forward. Supporting it does.
Like all companies, Sapper Consulting uses values to make sure we reach our mission of clearing a path of success for all who interact with us. At Sapper we don’t just celebrate diversity, we support it. By making sure we have different ideas, interests, and cultural backgrounds on our team, we don’t just propel diversity forward, we propel ourselves forward.
How Sapper Supports Diversity
- Sapper has completed Eagle’s Flight diversity training. “Intentionally building a culture where employees and leaders embrace diversity and inclusion can have tremendous benefits for any organization doing business in an increasingly globalized economy.” I can attest that Eagle’s Flight really tailored their program to fit Sapper’s culture by interviewing 8-10 employees and built a framework that provided relevant information and thought provoking take-aways. We had homework to do which mainly focused on having conversations outside of our training days to encourage an outcome of a diverse and inclusive culture. They provided an interactive and digital journal to track our progress and growth.
- This increased a higher level of psychological safety at Sapper and those uncomfortable conversations are beginning to be a bit easier. Minority employees talk about what it is like to work at a predominantly white company without the fear of record keeping, retaliation, and being punished. Amy Edmondson interviewed with Harvard Business Week Working Knowledge on her book, The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth. She states, “When we are psychologically safe at work we’re willing to accept that we can be ignorant about some things and very smart about others. Psychologically safe employees are more interested in learning, excellence, and genuinely connecting with others than in looking good.” Sapper does not have a lot of minority employees at this time. Given the climate of the country, we’re frequently asked for our opinions on the issue, how we feel at Sapper, and the best ways to address the imbalance. Without psychological safety, we would not want to wholeheartedly and honestly answer such questions.
- Finally, Sapper supports diversity by valuing relationships over responsibility of giving knowledge. As stated before, Sapper has a growing minority employee base. It can be a bit taxing on the emotional wellbeing answering a lot of questions, addressing unconscious biases and assumptions — yet we appreciate the zeal to learn. We want the responsibility of learning about our various cultures and even daily heartaches to be back on our counterparts. We point them in the right direction for such resources so that they can come to the table to add their new found learning.
Supporting diversity is a full time job and diversity fatigue is a real thing – but that doesn’t mean we give up. While we are making great strides at Sapper, we still have a lot of work to do, and we’re not the only ones. I encourage you to ask yourselves…. Are you in the audience, or are you a stage hand? Are you putting work in to make sure that your company is not just celebrating diversity but supporting it? Are you a part of their Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and bearing some of the work that has to be done? Or are you just throwing money at the cause to reap the benefits of everyone else’s hard work?
The work will be long and tedious, but I want to challenge you to create SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound) and increase ways to support diversity. Do not rush the process and bear some of the weight that comes with systemic change not just in your company, but also in your community. Build authentic relationships with your employees of color and get into their world, so that when the final bow comes, we can all celebrate the faces we see.