This summary and review of the book, The Loudest Duck : Moving Beyond Diversity While Embracing Differences to Achieve Success at Work, was prepared by Evelyn M. LeBlanc while an MBA student in the College of Business at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana.
Laura Liswood’s book The Loudest Duck, explains how and why today managers needs to move beyond the old means of diversity. She goes on to explain this old concept of diversity through her terminology of the corporate Noah’s ark. With this expressions Liswood, is implying that simply hiring two of every race, two of every gender, and two people with a disability does not solve the issue of diversity. Modern diversity is the notion that people have difference beyond race, gender, and there underlying capabilities.
The process of diversifying the workplace starts with managers learning and identifying the differences between the dominant and non dominant groups. Dominant groups tend to hold the positions of power and have an unconscious mind about self entitlement; these people tend to believe that they have earned their positions fairly. Dominant groups historically have been males, and usually white males at that. Non dominant groups have historically been the groups that have subtle disadvantages in relation to the dominant group, historically women and minorities.
The concept of Noah’s ark within the workplace can be a dangerous situation to the workplace and most likely even decrease productivity. Managers will not experience a successful Noah’s Ark until managers gain an understanding of each individual within the organization and learn how to carefully merge everyone so as if they were all on a level playing field with all of the same opportunities. Change is the only way that such a transformation could happen and it that can be a scary process for people to start to think differently and change their every day patterns; so it is up to managers to guide the ship in the right direction.
The elephant and the mouse parable is the basic idea that when you have an elephant and a mouse in the room, how much does the elephant need to know about the mouse and how much does the mouse have to know about the elephant? Naturally one would understand that the elephant does not need much knowledge about the mouse, but the mouse needs to know everything about the elephant for survival. A successful manager leading a diverse organization realizes that they should encompass the traits of both of these animals; he should know how to speak up and gain the lead like the elephant, but also learn how to grow that sense of adaptability and know to successfully maneuver the workplace.
Another concept is the book is the fact that workers bring their grandma’s to work. She defines your grandma has the lessons one was brought up with, stating when to speak and when not to speak. This doesn’t have to be a physical grandma, it could be your family, the media, your peer, etc. just merely the source from which your learned you unconscious ways of thinking about yourself and others. It is important that managers realize that people are going to have different grandmas depending on their culture and where they came from, some workers are going to speak up and some are not going to speak until spoken to.
Overall that managers need to be aware of the various challenges each employee faces within the workplace. Some employees will be provided with additional unconscious advantages and some with additional unconscious disadvantages. This could be done by the manager getting to know his golfer workers better than his non golfer workers. Some employees can have subtle advantages in the workplace just by figuring out the unwritten rules within the workplace faster than others, so they know who and what to avoid doing and when to do it. So in order for a manager to transform a workplace into a successful ark, managers must learn their employees, provide a level playing field, be able to distinguish the ample amount of differences that could exist in the workplace , and know that change for some will be easy and for some it will be extremely hard.
The Ten Things Managers Need to Know from The Loudest Duck
1. Managers should be aware of the Grandma-based learning style. Essentially, everyone learns the wise tales of their grandmother or from someone within their life that has thought them the basics of life, when it is ok to speak, how you should speak, when to interrupt, you should never interrupt. The problem with this grandma-based learning system is that everyone has a different grandma and their grandma learned their lessons from around the world; which in turn the grandma-based learning methodology leaves everyone with different rules on how they should act.
2. There is no sense for managers to spend another penny on creating diversity in the work place if they don’t understand that just because an employee is quiet and not speaking doesn’t mean they don’t have ideas or opinions to bring to the table. A manager should be conscious of who is speaking at meetings and who is not speaking. To avoid the silence a manager should call on each person directly to allow each of them to share there ideas with the room, since their “grandmother” might have taught them this is the only time you should speak. An open door policy should also be presented to allow others to chime in candidly if necessary, but make sure they do not cut off anyone who might otherwise be silent, because they might not speak their ideas otherwise.
3. Managers should have some sort of process to allow employees to keep the managers updated about each individual employees work within the organization. The manager needs to them provide honest feedback as far as what they are doing and what they need to work on. This needs to be a consistent process, since meeting once a year is not enough, this should ideally be performed at least once a month.
4. As a manager you should be conscious of your language within the workplace. The author states that the words “too” and “not enough” are rarely productive words that should be used; they are merely words that express the manager’s reactions and perceptions on how people should behave. Saying that someone is “too aggressive could in turn create resentment and confusion rather than provide encouragement.
5. Growing up we have learned that natural speech patterns between men and women; meaning we expect men and women to speak a certain way, both unique to their own gender. As a male manager we would sometimes find words of a male employee to be stern and straightforward but if a female were to speak in this nature we would find it offensive and perhaps inappropriate; and vise versa with a female manager. It is important as a manager that we sit back and realize that our unconscious opinions of the way people speak within an organization is giving the fellow coworker an uneven playing field.
6. It should be the results that matter; everyone speaks differently, manages time differently, and conducts themselves differently. As a manager you cannot allow yourself to become rapped up in what people say and how they say it, results need to be measured to make sure they organization is getting what they need. As humans we know the way that we will handle a situation and of course we think that it is the right way, it is important that managers realize that there is no “right” way and that results should be measured in order to come to an unbiased decision.
7. As a manager it should be essential that they are including everyone that is a part of their team. Unconsciously mangers think they are performing a good deed by taking out their coworkers to events, but in reality if all the workers are not interested in the outing then they are creating an unfair playing feel for everyone involved in the team. For example, taking your office out to a basketball game might sound like a fun event, but if only the people who enjoy basketball team they have a slight advantage to getting to know the manager which could intern lead to a better opportunity for promotion.
8. While it is ok to have sport outings with your coworkers, it is important that managers are aware of the natural companionship and additional trust that builds between coworkers and managers on time spent outside the office. Skilled managers need to find ways to learn about the other members within the team, so that when an opportunity or promotion becomes available that the manager does not unconsciously promote the wrong person because he only understood the full potential of his sports companions.
9. Managers should learn how to distinguish between dominant and non-dominant groups. With white men being historically obvious dominant group and women and minorities are historically obvious non dominant groups, managers just to realize that diversity goes beyond that. Diversity consist of the different groups such as short versus tall, fat versus thin, gay versus straight, the outgoing versus the shy, Alabama fans versus LSU fans, etc,; the list can go on but managers need to realize that diversity does not necessarily stop at gender, race and ethnicity.
10. Importantly, I think that managers should use a litmus test to understand their unconscious and natural opinions on how the evaluate situations. A litmus test will allow a manager to consider all