Diversity is a sensitive topic that many people do not like to speak about or even face. It felt strange to receive an email to write about and share my experience and opinion as an ASCLS member from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was a new thing for me and the first time I have thought of writing or discussing such an issue. It took me a long time to decide which such experience I would share.
So, what is diversity? We can define it as “a set of conscious practices that involve understanding and appreciating the interdependence of humanity, cultures, and the natural environment. It means practicing mutual respect for qualities and experiences that are different from our own.”1 It could be found in work, school, university, mall, hospitals, and everywhere, but this article focuses on workplace diversity, which refers to “the variety of differences between people in an organization. It encompasses race, gender, ethnic group, age, personality, cognitive style, tenure, organizational function, education, background, and more. It involves not only how people perceive themselves but also how they perceive others.”1
Such behavior may reflect on people’s relationships either negatively or positivity, but if it reflects in negative ways, it may become harmful. It reflects the fact that everyone in this universe is unique and different. We are not able to change that, but we can know each other better, accept others, and learn how to adapt. Is it easy? No. Can you adjust or handle others always? No. So, why are diversity discussions and issues critical? Because of our lives together and the need to respect and accept each other. For that, we need “a process to create and maintain a positive work environment where the similarities and differences of individuals are valued, and so all can reach their potential and maximize their contributions to an organization’s strategic goals and objectives.” This is known as diversity management.1
“Regardless of our differences, we can help and support each other when we have the same goals or when we focus on what brings us together.”
Usually, people speak about negative behaviors to illustrate the importance of diversity awareness. But I prefer to talk about the positive perspectives and share some positive stories that are more valuable. Focusing on the positive, however, does not deny that we face some negatives dealing with diversity and that we need more efforts to deal with it.
The Power of Diverse Friends and Mentors
During my work in Saudi Arabia, I transferred from one hospital to another hospital branch under the same organization, but I found intense difficulties in dealing with the work environment. These difficulties continued for a few months, but a new staff member joined us and was appointed as laboratory manager later. This man was a Filipino laboratory technician who had a lot of experience. He noticed that I did not feel included and was not happy there. He supported and mentored me, and we built a strong friendship that continues.
Also, my first co-worker at that hospital to build effective communication and interaction with me was not a Saudi. He was an Indian colleague who became one of my supportive friends.
I found that my other Saudi colleagues respected and appreciated me, but they had difficulties in communicating that to me. This experience showed me that sometimes inclusiveness involves two sides, and each side needs to learn how to act this way.
On the other hand, I cannot ignore the college teachers who play a significant role in my life as my mentors and supporters. Regardless of our differences, we can help and support each other when we have the same goals or when we focus on what brings us together.
The Need to Create Healthy Relationships
We need to understand the power behind our differences, which helps create more achievements and experiences that lead to a healthy relationship that spans our differences. Leading a diverse group or community requires tremendous skill, and it is helpful to understand different people’s needs and appreciate their differences for more human creativity and productivity.
ASCLS can play a significant role, especially since hospitals and laboratories are small communities composed of multi-cultural and sometimes multi-national associates needing to work together to serve the patients. Promoting cultural awareness and playing an educational role could be part of the Society’s contribution. For example, ASCLS could facilitate honest and frank discussions to find better work environments using such questions as:
- How can we live and work together?
- How can we control ourselves without judging others?
- How can we prevent or eliminate harmful actions?
- How can we assist the one who needs our help without harming them?
- How could each side accept each other?
- How will we train and educate healthcare practitioners on how to react inclusively and understand people’s differences?
- How can the organizations accept, support, and manage its diversity?
- Moreover, what related studies and articles are required? ASCLS might support and publish such papers.
In the end, let us use our diversity as a sunshine power and energy so that everyone feels included, and let’s provide a welcome and accepting atmosphere, too.
- Patrick, H., and Kumar, V. (2012). Managing Workplace Diversity. SAGE Open, 2(2), https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2158244012444615.
Aymen Alsaihati is a registered laboratory specialist in Saudi Arabia.
If you're interested in this topic, join the ASCLS Diversity Advocacy Council.