The Challenge for Employees of Diverse Backgrounds

The idea of “bringing your whole self to work” is a popular notion that encourages employees to be authentic and share their true selves in the workplace. This can be particularly challenging for minority employees who may face professional penalties or social ostracism for sharing too much about their cultural background. A recent study by Rachel Arnett, a Wharton management professor, suggests that engaging in rich and meaningful conversations about cultural backgrounds can increase the likelihood of inclusion by most colleagues.

Arnett’s research highlights the importance of “rich cultural identity expression,” which goes beyond superficial information and reveals parts of the inner self-connected to one’s cultural identity. By engaging in such conversations, minority employees can increase inclusivity and professional opportunities in several ways, including fostering respect, building closeness, and increasing learning.

However, Arnett also found that particularly contentious negative issues may not be well-received through rich cultural identity expression, and the results on the professional side were mixed. To create a more open and inclusive workplace, Arnett recommends five actions for managers, including making cultural expression voluntary, creating safe spaces, showing engagement, and focusing on listening, learning, and supporting others.

By encouraging rich cultural identity expression and following these recommendations, managers can create a more diverse and inclusive workplace that benefits all employees.

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The Power of Employees From a Diverse Background