America has been a cultural melting pot from early in our history. Many 21st century Americans want to celebrate our cultural diversity at home and in the workplace. However, given the wide variety of ethnic and cultural diversity of many U.S. workplaces, it can be difficult to find appropriate methods and contexts to express our ethnicity, religious affiliation and gender identity without offending others. That said, sociologists, anthropologists and human resources experts have come up with a number of suggestions for thoughtfully celebrating diversity in the workplace.
Make respect for diversity part of your organizational culture. You can begin this process by including a section in your organization's core values statement and employee handbook regarding acceptance of cultural differences and valuing diversity.
Create diversity programs. Establish an appreciate diversity week or month; establish a diversity council to organize activities, events and training programs related to diversity. Build conversations about diversity into formal and informal training programs, including new employee orientations.
Hold a semi-annual or annual appreciate diversity block party. Organize a gathering in the company parking lot or a nearby park. Pitch a big tent or two and invite employees, vendors and neighbors to share their cultural traditions. Think of it as a diversity potluck deluxe where almost anything goes -- music, dance, food, art or even stories. Include kid-oriented events and contests with prizes to promote conversations about cultural differences.
Incorporate cultural diversity into the interior decoration of your workplace. Consider a rotating "art gallery" from a different culture that changes every few months, or perhaps plants or furnishings from various geographical regions in the public space of your workplace. A life events "photo board" is another great way to get some perspective on cultural traditions.
Support minority vendors, minority-owned businesses and businesses that support minority issues. This can be a bit of a challenge, depending on your industry and vendor pool, but you can do some research and be creative. How about catering from a local ethnic restaurant instead of pizza, party, trays and cake at your next company party, or how about making a diversity or minority-related nonprofit the recipient of your annual charitable fundraising drive?
Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.