Managing diversity is a compliance thing – it means you successfully “manage” your diversity.  It means you are an equal opportunity employer, your anti-harassment policies are up to date, you try to avoid biases in your interviews, and it may even occur to you once in a while that your leadership team is made up of men, and it might be good to get a woman in there someday.

Inclusion, however, is a choice. It means you seek to include others in everything you do. It means, for example, that you go looking for diversity in your recruitment efforts instead of hoping a diverse group responds to your job posting.

What about tolerance? Why people use this in the context of diversity is beyond me. I hate that word. I tolerate the annoying lady behind me in line at the grocery store who is yelling at her kid and keeps bumping into me with her shopping cart. This isn’t a good reference point when we’re talking about diversity.

Let’s replace tolerate with celebrate, and I believe all organizations should have Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) initiatives that provide the opportunity to do just that. When a woman has a child, instead of tolerating that she’s on leave for three months, celebrate with her and ask her what her needs are. Can you offer that she come in and leave an hour earlier to avoid traffic?

When an employee needs a day off due to a religious holiday, instead of tolerating that he’ll be absent, celebrate with him and invite him to share insight about the holiday with the rest of the office.

When you realize that one employee is celebrating Pride Week in your city, instead of tolerating his pride flag taped to his cubicle wall, celebrate with him and find out how you and the rest of the office can participate too.

Inclusion means you invite people to be themselves, and that self is celebrated.

I recently did a webinar with Ascentis on the topic of D&I. Get the FREE recording here if you’re interested!