During the planning of the training, it was decided that June and Michelle would each present on their backgrounds and their experiences in the workplace. It is still uncommon for women of diverse racial backgrounds to be open about their experiences in corporate America. There is still a lack of diversity in the corporate corridors.
We made a tentative plan and everyone agreed to it. We still had about 30 minutes left of the meeting to hammer out the specifics. Then, June had to leave the meeting, and the rest of us stayed to complete the planning.
After June left, Michelle began to discuss in detail her experience of being the only African American woman at the firm. She shared how hard this is and how important it is that others are aware of the difficulties that she faces. Given this fact, she felt the whole presentation should focus on her and the experiences that employees like her deal with on a daily basis.
Michelle is a strong person and is very good at promoting her work and ideas. The group seemed a bit nervous about making sure that everything was in place and that we had a definite line up for the training. The four of us agreed with Michelle’s proposal.
The thought crossed my mind that June should be considered in this decision. However, I decided that she probably wouldn’t mind. After the meeting concluded, I sent an email suggesting that one of us speak to June and let her know about the plan.
An email was sent to the whole group. It stated that Michelle would have the entire time to present her topic and experiences that she has at work. June emailed back and was upset with Michelle for discounting her perspective, and for not including the experiences of Asian woman in the workplace.
Michelle proceeded to go to HR where she discussed the issue and how she often feels she is not represented or considered. Meetings began to take place in HR surrounding the conflict that had occurred.
The original group started to feel that the issue was getting out of hand, especially as HR had been dragged into the situation. The group had been selected to plan and work on these issues. Taking the matter to another department made it seem that the group could not handle the issues that it was selected to address.
My next blog will address how to resolve conflicts when there are competing needs regarding people who feel they are not accurately represented or are underrepresented in the workplace.
Kay Gimmestad, LCSW-C is a business coach and clinician in New York City with 20 years of experience working in the profit and not for profit sectors of Human Resources, Health and Human Services. She has built a reputation for being highly skilled in facilitating behavior change while working with employees, both individually and in groups, on matters relating to performance management, substance abuse, crisis intervention, and stress/wellness.