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October 2018
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TD Magazine

Look-Alikes

Employees are likely to have a manager who looks like them and vice versa.

In his 2017 Forbes article, Erik Larson writes about research Cloverpop conducted that indicates that inclusive teams are more likely to make better business decisions and that decisions made and executed by diverse teams are more likely to see better results. Cloverpop certainly is not alone in those findings.

But have organizations, leaders, and managers taken this to heart? Not so much, according to the Namely report Workplace Diversity Report 2018. Namely's team found a strong correlation between the ethnicity of a manager and the ethnicity of her direct reports.

According to the study's findings, nearly 44 percent of employees with an Asian manager are Asian, for example. Meanwhile, more than 71 percent of employees with a white manager are white.

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The study also reviewed the nature of employees themselves and found that most employees are more than 50 percent likely to have white managers, no matter the employee's ethnicity. The most troubling finding relating to manager-direct report diversity is that "while all non-majority groups are likely to report to white managers, white employees rarely report to other ethnicities."

A person's ethnicity, of course, is not the full encapsulation of diversity—it's just the beginning. Some of these other aspects can't be seen. Unfortunately, many people don't feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work and sharing what may be diversity differences.

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"If your culture doesn't allow for authenticity, managers will automatically hire more people who look and think like them because these people make them feel safe to be their authentic selves," the report states. How do companies change that? "Until we make the workplace a safe space to have these conversations," the report continues, "it will be impossible to create a culture of diversity and inclusion."

The HR team can help organizations with these conversations and setting the stage for a culture of inclusion. Small meet-ups, friendly chats, and the opportunity to disagree without seeking to convert are all methods to doing so.

About the Author
Patty Gaul is a senior writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).
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