Harmony in Diversity and Diversity in Harmony

 I had the great pleasure to talk ethics with my friend Masroor Lodi, he founder of ‘The Entrepreneurship School’ in India. The context was a program on how to teach teachers to teach values in the classroom. I met Masroor Lodi on a trip I took to India where I spoke at a Happy Workplace Conclave put on by my friend Mukund Trivedy.

Here is a link to the program so you can see what we talked about:  http://humanisticmanagement.international/teaching-teachers-to-teach-values-masroor-lodi/  That page includes links to the resources we discussed and a downloadable copy of his presentation. 

One of the things Masroor talked about that really resonated with me was about creating harmony in diversity and - diversity in Harmony.

Moral Imagination

He said that one of the ways to move forward with diverse groups and help them build cohesion is by accepting different actions as different ways to express shared values.

Values like – respect – are expressed as different behaviors in different cultures.  For instance, looking at someone and making eye contact vs. looking down and avoiding eye contact. It’s the same value, just expressed as different behavior.

 Part of the way to help create harmony in diversity  is to talk and discuss and learn from each other. And the best way to do that is to start from a point that everyone is moral. 

I love this as it is consistent with my way of being as a Humanist. Being a humanist to me means, treating everyone with dignity and understanding that they are moral beings, even when I don't understand their behavior. 

Imagine how much easier it is to deal with conflicts when you start by assuming the other person is behaving in a way they think is moral. And then, instead of treating them as if they are immoral, asking them questions to understand the morality that is driving their behavior.  I know that's how I want to be treated.

To do this well he encouraged us to increase our moral imaginations and to look at people's behavior, as moral and to try and understand their morality. 

Primary Values:

Another way people have trouble with diversity, is that they value different things. This is especially difficult in work groups. Everyone has the same values, but what is the primary value?  This can vary from person to person or from workgroup to workgroup.

I related to this because of a personal experience I had when working at a tower company. At one point we purchase the towers from Motorola.  With that purchase came employees. And this is where we had a primary value clash. 

What was valuable in a tower to Motorola, was not what we at our company valued.  To fix this, we had to be explicit about what made a tower valuable and to discuss the competing ideas of what made a tower valuable until we came to a shared understanding. 

Don't ever assume that everyone is on the same page. Explicitly discussing values and what is valuable in a work setting, helps create harmony in diversity. No one has to feel like their values aren't valued. That's the beauty of these conversations. Everyone's values matter. But if we listen respectfully, we can create consensus on what values we value the most in a given work situation. 

This can be done explicitly and should be done explicitly. Get in the habit of discussing what values are being invoked in decision making. You will find staff more engaged and more openly moral. 

Moral Code Switching:

The final thing he talked about that I want to share here has to do with moral code switching.  Behaviors of values may differ in different context. This is code switching. 

Examples might be things that are acceptable in personal life, not be acceptable in the workplace and vice versa. 

Again, the solution Masroor Lodi suggests, is to be explicit about the problem and re-affirm shared values and expectations in the given situation you find yourself in.  In a work environment, having a conversation about the moral values helps employees bring their personal values into the work environment and that in turn, should help people, behave more ethically with each other and see the morality of colleagues more clearly.

I want to thank Masroor for taking the time to discuss explicit ethics with me and the idea of using ethics to create harmony in diversity. 

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