A Different Kind of Diversity #WorkHuman

Diversity in the workplace.  By no means a new concept, and certainly one worth our attention as HR and business professionals.  Plain and simple, diversity makes our workplaces better, serving as a catalyst for different types of thinking, ways to approach problems, and perspectives/frames of reference.

Most often when we talk about diversity in the workplace it’s generally in the context of racial/ethnic or gender diversity.  However, here’s what Dictionary.com has to say about diversity:

  1. The state or fact of being diverse; difference, unlikeness: diversity of opinion
  2. Variety; multiformity
  3. The inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.: diversity in the workplace
  4. A point of difference

Only #3 encompasses our traditional view of diversity in the workplace.  But what if we expanded our definition of workplace diversity to encompass some of the other elements of this definition?


I recently found myself involved in a discussion on Facebook regarding the pros and cons of open office environments, both from an office vs. cubicle perspective as well as high walls vs. low walls in a cubicle only environment.  Various opinions and preferences were offered in the exchange, but in a vast generalization, it seemed that introverts tended to prefer closed environments and extroverts shouted the praises of open environments.  I classify myself as an “extroverted introvert” – I do enjoy being around people, but I appreciate my alone time just as much.  So to me, I don’t mind a cubicle environment, but I like my walls….I work in a pretty “chatty” environment that makes it hard to concentrate at times, and the walls certainly help.  You can say that’s what conference rooms and “private spaces” are for, but the reality is that when you’re in an office of several hundred people, it’s just not logistically possible to provide enough of those spaces to accommodate everyone.  The moral of the story is that different people have different preferences for how they need and want to work.  And if we make assumptions that everyone thrives in the same type of environment, we may be missing the mark and sacrificing productivity and achievement.

Introverts vs. extroverts in the workplace is just one example of what could be an extended view of diversity.  But diversity, or lack thereof, can manifest itself in several other ways.  It can appear through offhand comments and workplace vernacular, “He’s a good guy.”  It can show up in a bias towards a certain personality style or profile, such as an assumption that one needs to be aggressive or direct to be successful in a certain type of role, just because the majority in that role have those traits.  There’s a difference between establishing a success profile for various roles, and making the assumption that certain personality traits makes a person more successful.  That could be a whole other blog post.


But back to introverts vs. extroverts.  Many corporate cultures may have a bias towards the extrovert.  They’re loud.  They talk a lot.  They make sure you always know what they are up to (whether it’s because they tell you directly or you overhear them….did I mention they are loud?).  Does that mean they are accomplishing more than introverts?  Does that mean their ideas are better than introverts?  Not necessarily.

Susan Cain makes a case for the value of introverts in the workplace in her TED talk and in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  She’s also going to be one of the keynote speakers at this year’s WorkHuman conference in Phoenix, AZ.  What’s WorkHuman, you ask?  It’s a conference, but beyond that a movement, that was the brainchild of the folks at recognition software company Globoforce, and it’s an idea that they are “all-in” passionate about. To quote the WorkHuman mission, it centers on the idea that “when companies harness the transformative power of human connections, well-being, purpose and communications, we build a work culture that both reminds us of our worth as individuals, and pulls us together in pursuit of shared success.”

It’s the very type kind of conference that would focus on a topic like the value of different types of diversity in the workplace.  And much, much more.  I attended for the first time last year, and am anxious to return this year.  I’ll be talking more about it here over the coming months.


If you’re interested in joining the WorkHuman movement in Arizona in May, you can register for the conference here.  And as a bonus, if you use discount code WH17INF-JPA you’ll save $200 off your registration.  Hope to see you there…whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert!



About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has almost two decades of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, learning & development, and employee communications, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.


About the Author

Jennifer Payne

Jennifer Payne is a 20+ year human resources leader with a focus on researching, developing, and implementing talent management programs. She is a believer in lifelong learning and self-development who strives to stay current in HR trends, technology, best practices, and the future of work by sharing knowledge with and learning from HR colleagues and thought leaders across the country and throughout the world through writing, speaking, and involvement in various industry conferences and events.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter...


Branigan Robertson

I like the concept of looking at introverted and extroverted employees in relation to a diversity spectrum. It’s certainly a pertinent topic when we discuss workplace culture. One thing I’ll say about introverted employees, is that I’ve known more than a few. And when they come out of their shells, they can be as loud as the extroverts. Sometimes they’ll surprise you!

Jennifer Payne

Thanks for reading for the the comment….and you are correct about introverts having the ability to be loud as well. After all, “introverted” does not necessarily equate to “shy” – in my opinion it just means that they don’t need to get their energy from those around them, they can and do get it from inside.


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