Can You Speak Up?

Living in the Southwest, I'm once again reminded that there are so many dimensions of diversity. 

An article in the Albuquerque Journal on May 4, 2018 caught my attention. It was about two Native American teens who had travelled to a city out of state for a college tour. During the tour they were pulled from the group by two police officers. A complaint had been made by the mother of another student who stated, according to the article, they were too quiet. The teens were the only minorities in the group of white teens and parents.

The incident made national and international news with allegations of discrimination, negative stereotyping and racial profiling. That’s not what this post is about. It’s about a comment made by one of the officers.  He was reported as saying to the teens mother, “Maybe it will be a lesson for your kids that when they’re in a public situation to speak up.” 

There are numerous dimensions of diversity that go well beyond the ones that are obvious, the ones that can be seen and observed, like race and sex. People have different work and personality styles – they can be introverts or extroverts. My reaction when I read the comment by the officer: Maybe they are both shy! Maybe they are introverts.

Management lesson:  Every team will have introverts.  In meetings, you want to encourage everyone to participate in discussions. But remember, introverts don’t tend to speak up. They may have to be asked. They may need time to process the information being shared. You sometimes have to be creative and draw them out, especially in a meeting situation.  

Get to know your team members and learn more about them and their preferred style. We all have our own comfort zones. If you learn some people are shy or intimidated speaking out in a meeting – respect that difference.  If some individuals tell you they like to have time to process information before offering solutions – respect that difference. Find out how they are comfortable contributing. Leave the door open to accepting suggestions – perhaps in person or via email – after the meeting has concluded.  Don’t overlook them – they may have the solution you’ve been looking for! 

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