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… what? …

The effective leader can foster a work environment enjoyable for a team where its members feel valued for their service and empowered to serve.

As an employee of  the United States Department of Agriculture, at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, I understand the influence, importance, and empowerment that can be gained in a team when an organization is able to manage diversity and create its own culture. Unfortunately, I understand it from the reverse experience… I understand it because it was what our team longed for but could never attain. The better management and understanding of our diversity could have propelled our team into an advanced state of performance—one that would have been able to better serve our stakeholders; create an enjoyable work environment where members felt valued; and shape an organizational culture that celebrated multiculturalism and rejected discrimination and bias. My workplace was an example of how leadership, or the lack thereof, and the lack of understanding of diversity and inclusion can affect a team and its’ processes. There were Blacks, Whites, a Samoan, males, females, married and gay people, Christians, Muslims, those with degrees and not, those in higher rank and at the bottom.  And that’s how we worked… as a group of people who were different, never a team of USDA employees that could best serve because we each were different. 

 … so what? …

Through working, people discover, shape, or create information during the process of interacting with the environment or other people. So what really did we discover or create through our sometimes faulty process of interaction? At times, my workplace was like a scene from The Office—comedic, sporadic, and downright dim-witted. The environment was filled with convoluted assumptions,  jokes, and “light” discrimination, under leaders who danced around multiculturalism with no sense of cultural competence. Yet in still, WE were responsible for a large 40-million dollar budget that impacted the future of research, education, and extension. Quite often it was our environment and our faulty interaction that was a direct testament to where we failed to perform at rates which were in our ability. The work was completed… but it could have been more innovative and responsive had each person been empowered in their abilities and not treated as just hands doing the work.

 … now what? …


When I really reflect about it… it’s a detriment to our government and team that we did not work to the best of ability. What we needed were leaders that were engaged in developing an organizational culture through knowledge, skills, and awareness to address and rectify the workplace… What we needed was a glue that could bind our individual personal and national cultures into an organizational culture as Connerly and Pederson discuss, and a performance culture as in the model to the left. I’ve learned that I must encourage multicultural leadership, where the team has a shared belief in the vision and confidence that can achieve it. My leadership must advocate for change and create an organizational culture that embraces and values difference through engagement—only then can we foster productivity and innovation.



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