The workplace looks a lot different now than it used to, and that’s mostly a good thing.
Straight white men still wield a disproportionate amount of power in most offices, but there’s a slow but sure turn towards increasing diversity in the workplace in every sense of the word.
That makes some people feel threatened, but it shouldn’t.
Office dynamics doesn’t have to turn into a zero-sum game in which certain groups are pitted against each other in the struggle for power. That’s way too intense, and as a general rule, no office should model itself on Game of Thrones.
The office can be a safe space while still retaining its sense of creativity and innovation.
The new normal
There’s been a slow but steady demographic shift in the United States, one that shows no signs of slowing down. It won’t be too long before white people are no longer the majority in this country.
Politicians like to wave their hands and shout about stopping immigration, but that’s never been a realistic goal, because immigrants are woven into virtually every part of this country. The xenophobia and unabashed racism that’s emanating from certain parts of the government isn’t helpful, but it’s also probably not enough to reverse the trend.
America is stronger when being “American” means more than just being a white person who was born and raised in the suburbs (although there’s nothing inherently wrong with the suburbs).
We do better as a group when we can draw upon a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. If there are people in your office who don’t quite seem to get why the business wants to recruit people from a variety of backgrounds, then it’s time to put the employees through some workplace diversity training courses.
For the most part, we tend to hang out socially with people who look like us. There are exceptions, but most people don’t want to be the only member of their ethnic group at a party. The desire for homogeneity in a social group could be considered an unconscious bias, which means it’s innate and not something we do on purpose. Few people wake up in the morning and say, “Well, time to go hang out with a bunch of other white people.”
Unconscious biases are usually harder to shake than conscious ones, because doing so requires digging a bit deeper and facing some uncomfortable truths.
It’s easy for some Americans to assume that white people are the dominant racial group just about everywhere they go, but that’s simply not the case.
Let’s say you go on a vacation to Hawaii because you’re looking to take surf lessons in Waikiki and attend a luau on the beach. A plurality of Hawaiians (around 40 percent) are Asian, while less than 30 percent are white. Hawaii is a majority-minority state, along with California, Texas, New Mexico, and Nevada.
The future is rushing to meet us, and it’s not going to be lily-white.
Good businesses will figure that out sooner rather than later. Refusing to adapt to the changing demographic landscape makes it more likely that both you and your business will be left behind.