Building Trust and Respect for Diversity and Inclusion

When we form a new team, how do we begin to trust and build respect for each other? How do leaders know they are doing the right thing? How do we know our employee’s strengths and build inclusion?

On understanding your employee’s strengths, the Clifton Strengths are an interesting personality analysis with a strong focus on what works for each individual. The results can be helpful when selecting staff for new projects or setting up collaborative teams. 

I was required to take the Clifton Strengths survey when I joined my current team, and was given the book which explains each characteristic in depth. I later discussed the strengths with my manager and her team, revealing more about my personality and preferences to them. They shared their strengths and stories with me. I felt respected and included. When we gathered as a team to meet 40 other employees, we made little signs to encourage interaction.

On our diverse team, these signs helped people look deeper, beyond the outside appearances, at what each person could contribute to the team. It was okay to be different; we learned we could compliment and support each other in our projects because we were diverse.  

I have seen deviant managers and employees destroy trust within their teams too often. At one large company, our leaders conducted an anonymous employee survey each year. The survey results were used to evaluate management, HR practices and culture, and create management action plans for the next year. I watched managers actively hunt down employees through their anonymous survey comments. Employees trust managers to do the right thing. When managers act in deviant ways or support deviant employees, all trust in that manager is destroyed.  

I have also experienced the opposite. I have seen managers who respect their staff and encourage respect amongst their team. These managers actively and respectfully ask questions to determine people’s interests, preferences, and long-term goals. These managers treat their staff as unique individuals and celebrate each individual’s milestones, innovation, and accomplishments. They conduct team-building activities, organize breaks and lunches, and warmly welcome every new individual. They give employees time and directions to interact with each new team member. Once these managers learn what their employees want to do in their work, they use that information to introduce them to others, set up flexible work schedules, or improve their staff’s resumes by giving them challenging and interesting assignments.

I recommend this Society for Human Resource Management Building Trust as a Manager article to identify employees who lack trust in their leader. The article contains a series of steps we can take to become trust-worthy managers and supervisors. 

I work in an organization with >40,000 employees, a very diverse global workforce. I am proud of our diversity. As an individual contributor, I build trust and respect often on my projects by stating my intentions, following through on my plans, communicating openly and honestly about issues, and being consistent in my communications with others regardless of the age, gender, race, religion, or other characteristics. When I see someone who is different being excluded, I actively reach out and make sure they are included. Building trust and respect is the key to creating that diverse and inclusive workforce. 

Sources: Requirements for a Diverse Workforce: Clifton Strengths Theme page:

Society of Human Resource Management: 

Remembering Karate

The first college course I took at Portland Community College (PCC) was karate. I had good reasons. I was a beautiful young girl walking dangerous streets every night.

Holly Justice moves to OregonThis dangerous walk was not by accident. It was part of my career plans. Throughout high school I studied English, typing, stenography, bookkeeping, and participated in a work-study program to become a secretary. The week I finished high school, I moved to Oregon to be with my boyfriend. I had a place to live with him and his family, but wanted to work quickly to support myself. His parents had two teens, a daughter and son, to worry about.

Following my career plan, I started working any jobs I could land in the secretarial field to support myself. My money went to buy food, clothes, save for our own place, pay medical and dental bills, and make payments on our first car.

Within a year, I landed my dream job as a real secretary to two executives at a real estate investment firm in downtown Portland, Oregon. I wanted to work in Portland for my career, not the atmosphere. Portland was a gritty city.  Portland was not the mini-Manhattan it is today with good restaurants, trendy bars, beautiful hotels, and fancy shops on every corner. We had major urban blight. Pimps, prostitutes, and drug dealers lived downtown in low-rent motels, lingered on street corners, and actively worked their trade every day and night.

Like myself, plenty of business people worked in downtown Portland, but few stayed to shop or eat in the evening. In fact, there was no place to hang out in the evening as most services shut down. Each night I walked a long 15 blocks to meet up with my future father-in-law, as he was my carpool ride home to our country house in Aurora, Oregon. I was constantly being followed by pimps who called out directly “hey baby” or much scarier silent sinister types.

PCC offered a physical education class in karate after work, the perfect antidote. My future sister-in-law and I signed up together and bought the required white belt outfits. We quickly discovered this outfit wasn’t really designed for women, so we used safety pins to hold the top part together. Both of uss-l300karateoutfit were very fit from daily running, hiking, or playing tennis together, weighing in at around 110 pounds each. We arrived the first day to find we were the only women in the class. So naturally, the instructor made us sparring partners.

Karate was fun and challenging. It built our physical strength, and gave both of us a great aerobic workout. It taught us mental strength and agility. The 12-week class was based on defense against attacks, from behind, from the front, being punched, kicked, and so on. The instructor drilled into everyone to block, twist, defend yourself fast in one or two key blows, then run. Plus karate was credit class. It still counts on my transcript today as my physical education credit towards my degree.

Yes, that first college class in karate was life-changing. Even the first week, I walked my commute in those dangerous streets a new brave woman, knowing if I needed to, I could “block, kick, punch, and run”.