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Workplace Diversity – What Can You Do?

By Mario Pistilli

This issue of ICE with the cover story of diversity in the workplace was planned in late 2019, long before these most recent events including the murder of Mr. George Floyd. This has served as yet another reminder that racism is still real and pervasive in our society, and if we are honest, also in our workplaces. It is sad and shameful that it took such a tragic act to once again shock many into actions that we should have been doing all along. This cycle has been on perpetual repeat for far too long.

The focus of this article is on BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) issues, that does not discount the experience or lessen the importance of any other impacted groups. The BIPOC community, and in particular the Black community, is particularly impacted as I write this, but the strategies described can be applied to any situations of discrimination. The issues of racism and intolerance are daily struggles that, regardless of the focus of the news cycle, need to be addressed. It is not acceptable to say, well that’s not me, and do nothing.

I admit publicly that I have not done enough to support, empower and defend diversity in my workplace and in my community. I come to this as a beneficiary of white privilege and can never understand what it is like to suffer because of the color of my skin, my ethnicity or my sexual orientation. I can, however, be better and do better to be an ally and make a positive difference for those around me. I must lead change at creating and maintaining an anti-racist and anti-discriminatory culture. My hope is that sharing my personal journey to become better will resonate with others and spur action in their lives.

  • Learn to be uncomfortable and do not avoid it. It does not feel great to confront your own failures and inadequacies. The level of discomfort you might feel as you engage regarding these issues is of no comparison to the pain and hurt visited upon victims of intolerance on a daily basis. That is no excuse for inaction or avoidance. Those we lead deserve that we confront and overcome these feelings.
  • Listen, listen and then listen some more. Respect that every person, no matter their background, has their own truth. Allow people to express whatever their particular truth is and listen with the intent to understand and empathize not to solve.
  • Take steps to educate yourself. This is your responsibility and there should not be an expectation of anyone else to be your teacher. We each need to own our ignorance and seek the resources to fill that knowledge gap. I have a lengthy list of resources that is by no means all inclusive, but I have found many of these very helpful.
  • Have courage. Call out others, regardless of their position, when you hear or see words or behaviors that are inconsistent with a just culture. I strongly encourage that your learning include how to recognize aggressions and micro-aggressions. Also, it is not always about overt words or actions it is also the unsaid. Be vigilant in ensuring that everyone you engage with is participating and encouraged to contribute.
  • Don’t use excuses. I have heard others say, “I am afraid to talk to people about this, because I might say the wrong thing.” Speak from the heart and with empathy and if you do “say the wrong thing,” then sincerely apologize. I am not afraid, because I am not trying to strategize and tailor what I say to what I think the person wants to hear. I speak from my heart and with empathy and if what I say lands wrongly, then I say that I am sorry and ask for a clearer understanding of what the impact of my words were. I am not a big fan of asking permission to make a mistake in advance. I have heard people start out by saying, “I might say the wrong thing, but … .” The person you are speaking to has no obligation to allow you permission to misspeak and has every right to any reaction that your words may evoke in them. I know that I will say the wrong thing, and you probably will also, but take responsibility for it and learn from it. I also feel it is very important to let the other person know that their feelings and emotional safety are important to you.
  • Don’t force it. If your team member is not in a frame of mind to talk or open up, then push to make it happen. Give others the time and space to process whatever they are going through and invite them to talk when they are ready. This does not mean to ignore issues, but to try again later to check if it is a better time.
  • Know your team. I previously wrote about the importance of rounding and getting to know your employees. This includes their feelings or challenges around race, sexual orientation, disabilities or any other issues that may be impacting them or their families. Make it clear that whatever those impactful issues are that it is safe to talk about them.
  • Advocate for change. Encourage everyone to report any instances of unjust culture that they have been subjected to or witnessed. You can encourage them, by making sure that the response is not disciplinary or retaliatory to the reporter. Also, be a role model by reporting these things yourself. I have placed many risk management reports when I have learned of something that should be reported. If you know the person that filed or placed the report, let them know that you appreciate them bringing this issue forward and are happy that they reported it.
  • Be willing to explore your own biases. We all have certain biases regardless of how well intentioned you think you are. You can take a bias test at: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html. It is a good place to start to begin to recognize the biases that you have so you can start to address them.

This is not a quick fix issue; this is a lifelong commitment to engage in personal growth. It is about being a better human and forming better connections with everyone around you – regardless of their personal truth. I am, and will continue to be, a flawed person. However, I can strive to do better. There is no way that in the space of this article, I have even scratched the surface of the complexities and nuances of these issues. I challenge each of you to embark on your own journey of self-improvement, be kind to each other and support others in their journeys. Our individual uniqueness and our diversity are strengths that make us all better.

– Mario Pistilli, CRA, MBA, FACHE, FAHRA, is administrative director for imaging and imaging research at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. He is an active member and volunteers time for ACHE and HFMA organizations. He is currently serving on the AHRA national Board of Directors. He can be contacted at mpistiili@chla.usc.edu.


Resources

Articles to Read

Books to Read

Children’s Books to Read

Movies and TV to Watch

  • Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler) — Available to rent
  • Selma (Ava DuVernay) — Available to rent
  • The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.) — Hulu with Cinemax
  • Green Book – Available to rent
  • LA 92 – Netflix
  • When They See Us (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
  • 13th (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
  • American Son (Kenny Leon) — Netflix
  • Dear White People (Justin Simien) — Netflix
  • I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin doc) — Available to rent or on Kanopy
  • Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton) — Available to rent for free in June in the U.S.

Podcasts to Listen to

Videos to Watch

Additional Resources

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