Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Power of Diversity

As a rule, professionally, I don't give a damn about feelings.  My job and especially when on a team is to keep people from being injured.  If I can go in and leave with the bad guys in cuffs and no one- good, bad or bystander- injured, I really don't give a damn if someone feels slighted or insulted.

Understand- I don't want to insult people and go out of my way to avoid it, but not because I care about their feelings. It's just easier to deal with people who are calm and on your side than people you've been a jerk to.

So when people talk about diversity, I take a fairly hard look. Most are talking about diversity of appearance. There is something there, but only as little or as much as people decide. In almost all of the so-called 'protected classes' I know people who are extraordinary and people who are worthless. It's not the 'easy to quantify' things- race, religion, gender, age, gender identity, whatever- that make people different or special. But some latch onto one of these as a label or a badge or a shield or a reason or an excuse... I don't have a lot of use for that.

I solve problems and I work with teams that solve problems.  The more different eyes looking at the problem from different places the more options I have. THAT is why I value diversity. It has nothing to do with appearance or catering to feelings. It is about getting everyone out alive. So I want the inner city kid and the redneck and the flower child. As long as they agree on the goal (and as TL I reserve the right to set the goal if there is any dissent) the mix will give me more options.

They have issues. I don't know any adult human being who is worth a shit who doesn't have enough bad stuff in their past to be full of excuses and issues... but I choose people who have the stuff and refuse to use it as excuses. In that one thing, perhaps, I don't honor diversity. I see nothing noble or useful about wallowing in the victim identity.

Two men despise each other.  One is urbane and mild mannered. The other is crude and loud- he talks like someone out of the movie "Deliverance". The urbane one has no frame of reference for what is going on here.  Where he has lived he has never actually met a poor southern boy. Everything he has seen on television requires that someone who looks and talks like this must be stupid and ignorant and violent and probably evil.

The southern boy, his whole life, has only seen privileged white northerners with this demeanor, this condescension.  He is used to being talked down to, treated as if he were stupid and dangerous.

The southern boy is smart as hell and deeply compassionate, two things the northerner can't see because they don't compute with his world view.  The urbane northerner is actually brave and tough as nails and the southerner can't see that. Hidden behind condescension he has always seen, or always expected to see, a physical coward.

The team leader strikes the balance. She is a product of urban Texas and has seen "good ol' boys" who were smart as anything and upper-class city kids who would stand their ground in the fires of hell.  It is work for her to maintain the balance. If the northerner and the southerner could see the strengths, it would make a hell of a team.

Diversity is a resource, but seeing it and using it is a skill.


Anonymous said...

i have been reading this blog for some months after stumbling , very unexpectedly, on a thread with a reference to it.
i have been alternately pleased and puzzled. but after many months, it occurred to me that i missed the point altogether. so i have revised my opinion and concluded that this is a most brilliant parody. kudos,my friend. you are very droll indeed.

Anonymous said...

The story you tell, Rory, is the story of Legolas and Gimli, or at least its beginnings. Let's hope it ends in a similar way.

If you've ever had to deal with this kind of thing as a team leader, I wouldn't mind hearing what you did.

Anonymous said...

Honour, it's invisible but at the same time takes up the whole view. Alot of unnecessary conflict and chaos is caused by this, this thing. It's a waste of time, when something needs to be done, get it done, who cares about their invisible "treasure".