Workplace Xenophobia


In my last blog, Give Us Strategy!, I mentioned how a true, robust culture is the essential ingredient that must be in place prior to developing a successful strategy.  Well, another aspect of a sound organizational culture is to promote healthy conflict.  This means that the corporate egos  must be secure enough to handle challenges, inquiries, and push-back/dissent to the proposed strategies, and this is possible when Cognitive Diversity is allowed.  People playing roles, in a resulting inauthentic culture of conformity is doomed to fail.

History continuously validates the notion that removing the individuality of people ultimately causes a culture to fail.  Putting pressure on people to conform is the equivalent of extinguishing the fire of genius.  How, then, can true cultures execute successful strategies?  Foot Soldiers and “Yes-Men” are not leaders.  It is simple Economics that when everything is the same, and “commoditized”, the value plummets.  The market pays more for what is unique and in short supply.  What is the strategy behind reducing top talent “diamonds” into common “coal”?  Diversity produces collective benefits.  This idea isn’t new.  Plato said this two millenia ago.  For example, Bletchley Park (WW1) was hardly a rainbow gathering, though they were cognitively diverse.  A corporate example would be Procter & Gamble…they found that problems are far more likely to be solved w/ physical chemist, molecular biologist, and a biophysicist than only chemists. Additionally, Scott Page’s Diversity Trumps Homogeneity Theorem essentially states that groups that display a range of perspectives (“predictive models” or THOUGHTS) outperform groups of like-minded experts because a person’s ability to contribute improves if s/he can see a problem in multiple ways and if s/he can apply diverse approaches (“heuristics” or ACTIONS).

Former President John F. Kennedy said, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom, and the enemy of growth.”  Yet, I’ve met privately with one Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) who described that if people were not “on board,” they should start looking for employment elsewhere.  While there is something to be said for solidarity, alignment, and not having a “house divided,” his argument was based on how conformity of thought, style, and behavior is key.  In fact, he saw no reason to support Diversity and Inclusion initiatives – despite having a 75+% female talent base with an all-White male C-Suite and investigations made by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  He further emphasized, “This (company) is NOT a nurturing environment.”  Au contraire, mon ami.

The “War for Talent” requires that a CHRO promotes and supports a nurturing environment, if part of the corporate strategy includes pleasing the stockholders and low attrition.  Furthermore, a nurturing environment is conducive to meeting the needs of the marketplace…again, simple Economics and ancient Greek philosophy, i.e. “Know thy audience,” dictate that listening intently to the needs of the consumer and meeting/supplying them is a form of commerce that is nurturing.  So must that treatment also be directed inwards.  And, it just makes painstaking common sense that if you take a hard look at the data.  For example, Catalyst reports that Fortune 500 companies with the highest percentages of women officers experienced an average 35.1 percent higher return on equity and 34 percent higher total return to shareholders than those with low percentages of women corporate officers.


  1. Promote talented women into the C-Suite.
  2. Have your  talent base be reflective of your consumer demographics (i.e. “Identity Representation”).
  3. Have an Organizational Development practitioner perform a cultural analysis on your organizational culture.  S/He can assist with the co-development of an organizational matrix, which is cross-functional.
  4. Incorporate Inclusion into the Leadership Development workshops.
  5. Create age diversity to improve collective performance.

Don’t sacrifice ability for diversity…Just balance it.

Thank you.


Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator.


Address to the United Nations, 25 September 1961,

Scott Page, The Difference (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2007).


About Rossina

Thought Partner & Corporate Primatologist

Posted on April 16, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Really liked this and agree with “don’t sacrifice ability for diversity…..just balance it”.

  2. I enjoyed your blog and I particularly like that you are giving recommendations at the end that organizations can actually do.

    Love you!

    Laura Lee

    Executive Director

    San Benito Time Exchange


    Neighbors Helping Neighbors

  3. From Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, pg. 143 “I started to see differences in attitudes toward women I started noticing how often employees were judged not by their objective performance, but by the subjective standard of how well they fit in.”

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