My Diversity & Inclusion Journey

Diversity Inclusion Word CloudBy Sana Ansari Manjeshwar
IOA Board Member

On the impact of including D&I principles in my Ombuds practice…

Sana_Manjeshwar_8x10I identify myself as an Asian, British, American female, raised in Nigeria, England and India, living in Texas and practicing spirituality inclusive of all religions. I used to think that my background represented the image of diversity and inclusion. I was wrong.

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is so much more than the representation of various genders and ethnicities. It means practicing a diverse and inclusive mindset where you are seeking different perspectives in the workplace and providing an environment where each person is valued for his/her/their distinctive skills, experiences, and viewpoints.

“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”
– Verna Myers, author and diversity consultant

A recent Deloitte study found that seventy-two percent of working Americans surveyed would or may consider leaving an organization for one they think is more inclusive. Organizations can address these types of retention challenges by providing an organizational ombuds office as safe, confidential place for everyone to be heard, as well as including tools to understand diversity and inclusion values.

I discovered that, to be an effective organizational ombuds, I needed to hold myself accountable to maintain a diverse and inclusive mindset to receive visitors representing all types of issues and personalities and to ensure a consistently safe “judgement-free” space. An inclusive mindset includes practicing emotional intelligence, dignity, respect, understanding and a patient ear to everyone. As organizations implement greater diversity and inclusion in their workforce (which leads to greater innovation and bottom line results), different perspectives and viewpoints may lead to conflict.

Practicing diversity and inclusion values is a continuous journey. With each new visitor, I have developed a deeper understanding of different perspectives and choices. Visitors seek ombuds’ guidance for options to address their concerns and to feel heard. We need to be prepared to receive visitors in support or against the #MeToo movement, the alleged harasser or the victim, the bully or the accused, the hotline reporter or the target of the complaint, the policy maker or the person seeking the policy exception, the visitor seeking conflict or the conflict avoider, the visitor who wants to raise the PRIDE flag or the visitor who is offended by the values it represents to them, the visitor who wants to set up the prayer room in observance of a religious holiday or the visitor who is disturbed by the employees taking up office space, the visitor who wants a pay raise, or the visitor who needs to uphold the pay determination decision he has to deliver, the supervisor or leader who is not sure how to address a sensitive workplace issue, the visitor who is the only minority on the team, the visitor in support of gun control or against, the list goes on.

At Chevron’s Global Office of Ombuds, we incorporate diversity and inclusion principles in our practice by including some of the diversity and inclusion tools in certain workshop topics including how to prepare for difficult conversations, tools for open communication and ways to contribute to a bully and harassment free workplace. These workshops reinforce the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion values and encourage employees to use the various resources available to them if they do not feel as if they are able to bring their authentic selves to work.

I have provided a list below of resources you may want to consider if you would like to explore using some of these resources in your own ombuds offices or in your personal D&I journey. It has been a humbling experience to know there are so many cultures, types of unconscious bias and inclusion principles that I have yet to learn.

By acknowledging our personal biases and barriers to a diverse and inclusive mindset, we expand our pool of potential collaborators to achieve results. I hope you will consider taking the unconscious bias test below and continuing this diversity and inclusion journey with me.

A daily checklist of questions that I have compiled to hold myself accountable to diversity and inclusion values in my ombuds practice:

  • Do you engage and collaborate with your colleagues and visitors to ensure that everyone feels comfortable sharing their perspectives, and feel heard and acknowledged?
  • Are you focusing your attention on results rather than style? An individual’s background, personality quirks, appearance are irrelevant.
  • Do you push yourself out of your comfort zone to accept new challenges and work with people with different workstyles and personalities than your own?
  • Do you listen to opinions regardless of years of service, whether people are new to the organization/ role or have extensive experience?
  • Do you actively embrace a diversity of people, ideas, talents, and experiences to meet your organization’s goals?
  • Do you bring your authentic self to work and demonstrate cultural awareness and respect?
  • Do you listen with the intent to understand?
  • Do you ask questions with the intent to advance your own viewpoint or do you seek to understand other perspectives?
  • Do you have a positive attitude to change?
  • Are you open to new ideas to people outside your area of expertise or work group even if they are outside your comfort zone?
  • Do you hold yourself and others accountable to cultural humility?
  • Do you encourage people to give you feedback?
  • Are you practicing the Catalyst Meeting Ground Rules in your interactions with others?

Diversity & Inclusion Reference and Resource List:

“Diversity may be counting heads. Inclusion is making heads count.”
– Nichole Barnes Marshall, Global Head of Inclusion, Aon plc

The integration of both diversity and inclusion is critical for bottom-line success.

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