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Is diversity at workplace always a good thing?


Diversity is normally considered as a good thing. But, in the working environment, is it still a good strategy to make others normally associate me with the country and culture that I was originally from?


Dear Anonymous,

Interesting question.  I agree that in most business situations, diversity is a plus.   However, I would not recommend a strategy of continuously calling attention specifically to your associated culture or country of origin. Instead,  I would emphasize being a team contributor with ideas which may come from a different perspective. Do highlight the commonality that you have a shared goal with the team.  Don’t limit yourself.

The recent anniversary of the 9/11 attack highlights an example of where diversity might or would have been hugely beneficial.  Recently, I read an extremely insightful BBC opinion piece asking whether the CIA was too white to recognize the signals leading to the 9/11 tragedy (  In short the piece pointed to the near uniformness of CIA people, perception and assumptions based on Western norms as possible reasons they simply couldn’t see a potential attack as credible.  They might have been blinded to the strong messages coming out of the Middle East. Some diversity could have helped.

Diversity brings different assumptions and precepts and yields alternate approaches for a team to think of and to solve a problem.  But diversity can’t be the end all because a team also requires cohesion to sort through different ideas and approaches and come to a consensus action.  I think a team works best when each member is clearly recognized as a fellow team member first, with each committed to the goal of the group. Secondly each team member is valued for bringing a different and contributing perspective.  I wouldn’t play up national origin or cultural differences (or any other differences like religion, for example). After all, you are more than just an Asian-American with only “Asian” ways. So why pigeon hole yourself? You want to be regarded as a valued member of the team, and not that “Asian-American” guy.  Bear in mind that even among “native Americans” there is diversity in personality types and regional cultures.

A skilled team leader should embrace the diversity and subtly solicit each member’s views and ideas without resorting to calling out obvious differences.