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The Newsletter | Edition 057
In our Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now.

As we've seen with many workplace scandals, it's not enough to simply put a diverse group of people in a room together. Companies have to ensure that every voice feels heard and valued. But when you combine a variety of backgrounds, ages, cultures, and beliefs there will be some inevitable misunderstandings. So, how can companies foster camaraderie and understanding in today's intergenerational, intercultural workplace? And how do we ensure that we don't over prioritize purpose camaraderie at the expense of purpose clarity? How can our diversity work for us instead of against us?
  1. Get to the root of your intentions, from Payal Pereira
  2. Make space for stories you don't relate to, from Julie Lubbers
  3. How to cultivate connections through play, from Jos'e Oseme~na
And this time, our illustrations from Christopher Campisi.


From Payal Pereira


Diversity in leadership is said to increase profits. But promoting women and people of color to leadership suites without the right kind of support is a crisis in itself. People that break the glass ceiling are often faced by the glass cliff in these situations.


This past year, with the pandemic and the racial awakening in America, we saw many people at leadership levels replaced with women or people of color. They were brought in at a dire time and were expected to clean up the mess created by their predecessors. When women and people of color get these opportunities in times of crisis for the company, they take it up despite knowing the risks because they believe that these opportunities might not present themselves in the future. They not only enter these roles in precarious times, but have to outperform their predecessors to justify receiving the promotion. And if they fail, it reinforces the idea that women and minorities can't excel in leadership roles. This phenomenon is called the 'glass cliff' effect and it often perpetuates further underrepresentation in the long run.


Consider the timing and intention of promotions in order to set women and people of color up for success.


  • Offer flexible support. The kind of support each person needs varies. Especially when women and people of color come into leadership positions in a time of crisis, it is important to ensure that they feel heard and supported. This could mean giving them bigger budgets or more time for turnarounds in order to set them up for success.
  • Celebrate differences. When working in multicultural environments with international employees or leaders, it is important to learn about their cultural backgrounds to get a better understanding of their working styles and behaviors and how it is different from yours. Refer to this Country Mapping Tool by Erin Meyer.
  • Make it part of your culture. This glass cliff phenomenon does not apply to organizations with a history of female leaders according to Harvard Business Review. Hence, making it a norm to promote women and people of color, not just in a time of crisis can help an organization achieve continued success.


From Julie Lubbers


As marketers, we spend our days using the power of storytelling to connect with consumers, but often forget to use this powerful tool to connect with each other. Unlike perfectly designed and aspirational brand narratives, however, it's the stories we relate to the least that can connect us the most.


It's often thought that inclusion is created through true understanding and commonality. As a result, we naturally look for storytelling moments that we can all rally behind, but in doing so the point of diversity can sometimes be lost. Yes, there's power in what we share, but we're also all different and that's the point. Inclusion should be about finding ways to leverage that, by creating spaces for different perspectives and experiences to be truly heard and taken into account.

The best way to use storytelling to build inclusion is to create opportunities to share more of the stories that don't often get told, and lean into the fact that we don't all share the same stories.


Make space for stories we can't all relate to.


If we're honest with ourselves and each other, one of the reasons we don't do this more is because it's uncomfortable. As people, we like to find ways to relate to each other. This is even more true in workplaces, where we naturally find ways to fit in. We tell ourselves that if we're there, it means that we're already expected to 'get it.'

As a result, our natural impulse is to find ways to show the other person we understand them and we can relate by reciprocating with experiences of our own. But the best thing you can do, as Selena and Stacey argue, is to admit that you don't or won't ever fully understand someone's else's story, perspective or worldview, and you don't need to. You simply need to listen.


From Jos'e Osme~na


When people who share the same space have no obvious points of common ground, or worse dislike each other, cultivating play can be a powerful way to build bridges and create a culture of mutual appreciation.


People prefer to work with those that they like-which often means those who have similar interests, values, and backgrounds as them. But when hiring people across generations, cultural backgrounds, and economic status, common ground can be hard to find. This can cause folks to clam up out of fear of attracting unwanted attention or offending others, or worse, cause cliques to form that alienate those left without a group.

Cultivating play at the workplace has the potential to create an environment where coworkers focus less on what sets them apart and more on what makes everyone special. Moments of play encourages people to bring out more of their genuine selves, which not only makes them more comfortable around their coworkers, but also allows coworkers to find things they can appreciate in each other. Play can also create shared memories, which can act as the cornerstone for a shared language and culture that eases the way people can relate to one another. And if nothing else, play can get everyone smiling and laughing at the same thing-which has proven benefits at the workplace.


Institute recurring playdates where people can engage with each other in novel ways and reveal their more authentic selves.


  • Make it regular. People aren't going to be able to get to know each other if events are few and far apart. Weekly or bi-weekly events can create a consistent rhythm of getting-to-know-each-other that wouldn't be too disruptive to people's schedules.
  • Set clear but loose rules of engagement. Having a prompt or activity in mind decreases the burden for people to figure out how they can interact with each other, makes it easier for them to engage, and potentially encourages them to let their guard down.
  • Design for fair airtime. It's very easy for the most talented or loudest of the bunch to take up all the attention. Create guardrails for airtime, such that coworkers have equal opportunities to share more of themselves with the rest of the team.

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