Credentials & Certifications
In addition to academic and extra-academic certifications and licenses, Smiley & Co, Ltd. has been certified as an 8(a) Small Disadvantaged Business by the U.S. Small Business Administration and as an M/DBE by the State of Colorado, City and County of Denver, CDOT and the Rocky Mountain Minority Supplier Development Council.
Dr. Smiley-Marquez Bio
An Authentic Response
to Real Issues in Organizations
Carolyna Smiley-Marquez, Ph.D.
Smiley & Co, Ltd.
Hygiene, CO 80533-0211
An Authentic Response to Real Issues in Organizations
Business as Usual
Communities just east of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, an area called the front range get a simple sunset. Sometimes there is more, but it cannot compare to the palette of colors and shapes that dance in the evening skies of my ancestral home in New Mexico. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy and appreciate the efficient way the sun drops into its slot near Long's Peak like a dime into a piggybank. Nonetheless, there is something unsatisfying about it that gnaws at my subconscious and takes a little bite out of the pleasure of a day's end.
Specializing in equity and diversity, I have provided assessment, intervention and educational programs for 761 organizations in my twenty plus years as a consultant. The work is both challenging and rewarding and I am grateful for my clients' trust and positive regard.
Recently, however, there is something unsatisfying about what is happening in many workplaces. Glowing diversity efforts, including some to which I have contributed, have dropped out of sight behind business as usual. By the measures that diversity efforts encouraged, nothing has changed.
How is it that many American workplaces seem not to have been deeply and meaningfully impacted by the plethora of diversity training and diversity programs they have implemented? Worse, how is it that some efforts have had lingering negative effects?
A potential client explained that their organzation understood that the two-hour diversity program they planned for their managers was "seed planting" when they invited me to provide the service. I was the itinerant farmer with my package of diversity Burpee. The gnawing feeling was back. Of course, her employer was not so different from many others. Most diversity programs are singular, brief, classroom events that cannot address the real issues or cannot address them in authentic ways. This is because equity and diversity are not events, they are conscious processes that engage the system and its stakeholders. Just as a successful harvest is assured by ground that has been well ploughed and harrowed, a field that has been amply planted, tended, nurtured, and weeded, diversity is assured by deep responses of the organization. More often, and with the best intentions, many employers broadcast the obligatory diversity seeds in their unprepared gardens, return to business as usual, and then they, and I, wonder why their efforts wither.
There are as many approaches to diversity as there are disciplines and they all provide useful resources in different circumstances. Some methodologies have proved more productive than others and some have produced negative, often lingering, results. Both approach and methodology should be as carefully defined as the training content. Some methodologies are strong medicine--high risk--and should be prescribed only when clearly indicated. Two that top the researchers' lists as generally contraindicated are:
Blaming or shaming participants without their express and informed consent is unethical if not unkind. If a respectful workplace is the goal of the training, the training must be respectful. If an egalitarian environment is the goal for management, the exploration of cultural and social differences among groups must encourage mutual understanding through deep dialogue.
- training that requires psychological or emotional confrontation or exploitation of participants; and
- training that stereotypes diverse groups.
This does not mean that diversity training should avoid engaging emotions and the psyche of those participating. In fact, the opposite is true if a change of behavior in the individual stakeholder as well as in the system is the goal. Deep diversity is an authentic response to real issues in organizations.
Out of the myriad of stories told among my colleagues, external consultants, and our internal counterparts, one theme emerges more than others, diversity requires a systematic, informed approach in any organization.
A 1998 study of U.S. diversity training accomplished by the International Labour Office in Switzerland, identified eight benchmarks for effective diversity training:
Three qualities, less than 40%, address the credentials of the consultant and training goals.Five of the eight qualities speak to the commitment, clarity and readiness of the organization to the effort. These represent the deeper diversity work and achieve the most success when a part of other intentional organizational development efforts.
- the initiatives enjoy strong, visible, consistent support from the client organization's top management;
- training is closely tailored to the specific circumstances of the client organization;
- training is motivated by the client organization's important operational goals;
- trainers have qualifications in management or organizational development;
- training focuses on discrimination as a general process rather than unique issues of special groups;
- training is designed to change trainees' behavior rather than attitudes alone;
- training is completmented by improvements in the client organization's human resource management practices; and
- training is part of broad efforts at organizational development.
Deeper Diversity and Everyday Management
I was recently asked to mediate a conflict between two supervisors. The requesting managers recognized that diversity was a factor based on the fact that one was an Hispanic male and the other a white female in a traditionally-male craft.
In preparation for my work, I reviewed the assessment, written jointly by the managers, which concluded that there were "racial and sexual tensions" between the supervisors. "Holy locomotives!" I lurched, "they have sounded the whistle and engaged the gears, but are on the wrong track."
Was this conflict motivated by racial and sexual tension? No! Gender and cultural misunderstandings between the supervisors, which were put right by a small amount of education and a facilitated dialogue, were the underlying factors. Was there tension? Yes, it is natural to expect tension when conflict is present. And yes, when diversity is a factor, deeper tensions may exacerbate the issues.
The two managers--well-meaning and well-respected white male engineers--had not considered when they wrote and forwarded the memo, per organizational procedures, to four other administrators:
Deeper diversity issues at play in conflicts should be considered when addressing issues:
- the descriptors, sexual and racial tension, are "loaded" and, like one bullet in a chamber, threaten dangerous professional consequences; and
- such labels may be career stoppers for an Hispanic man and for a woman in a mostly-male profession.
The managers' backgrounds did not prepare them to recognize or assess the deeper context of a cross gender, cross cultural conflict. Nor had the organization's three waves of diversity training in which they had voluntarily participated. Of this failing, they and I became aware in our exit discussion. The diversity training programs had not taught them why or how to consider that their own race, gender, sexual orientation, age, education, organizational status, traditional careers and traditional management training might tailor their diagnosic abilities. Nor had the training provided enough definition about how ordinary acts of management might have differential impact on employees because of their diversity.
- a lifetime of negative events experienced by an individual--or the group with which they identify--can be expected to tinge their experience in emergent issues;
- when managers do not understand the dynamics of diversity, they may inadvertently perpetuate racism, sexism or other ...isms; and
- the organization's routine procedures and practices--business as usual--may lack checkpoints that are diversity informed.
Beyond the scope of individual managers exists the organizational habits that, like perpetually-raised crossing gates, allow for inattention. Noone, including administrators who received the report, slowed its progress or set its brakes. The memorandum chugged its way into the files. And it is still there.
Deep Diversity Requires More
Deep diversity requires more. Internal consultants such as human resource, equity and diversity, labor and employee assistance specialists, touchstones for authenticity, confess that they have been disappointed that equity and diversity training has such short-term effect. Their routine interactions with ordinary employees about ordinary actions inform them of patterns within the organization that reveal its truer nature. Until everyday attitudes and actions demonstrate a genuine transformation at the level of the daily work of employees, the work has not been accomplished.
Deep Diversity Offers More, Risks More
Deep diversity work encourages development of an organizational character that more athentically reflects truly American principles of equal opportunity, fairness and remediation. In organizations where these values are fully integrated, a diversity intervention reveals the precious find. When these values are uncommon, diversity efforts require more ploughing, more harrowing, more seeding, feeding and weeding. Be aware tht in these cases, resistence and the stakes--like rocks in the farmer's field--can be expected to rise more often and higher.Business-as-usual is often the farmer's catastrophe.
Deep diversity means doing deeper assessment, deeper diagnosis, broader education and wider skill building. It may require:
Most employees desire connection with their work, yet they experience alienation from the work and within their workplace. Deep diversity promises higher productivity because people will feel safer and more responsible. Deep diversity doesn't just impact employees, however, it informs the work and the workplace. It improves structure, systems and people and requires leadership at all levels. Deep diversity may not be something that can be dropped into an organizational slot quickly or quietly, but at day's end, like the many-hued light show of a desert evening, is more satisfying and more promising.
- reparation for injustices of the past;
- reengineering of systems and procedures to ensure equity in routine management actions;
- education and coaching of managers and supervisors for cross cultural and diversity competence; and
- education of employees about diversity, conflict resolution and dialogue across differences.