The U.S. Internal Revenue Service stands accused of an egregious infraction, discriminatory treatment toward those with expressed political differences, ideological diversities of thought. The IRS alleged its decision to employ a form of “name-related bias” in applying extra scrutiny to nonprofit organizations with names including terms like “Tea Party”, “Constitution” or “Patriot” was merely a ham-handed shortcut for investigative efficiency.
Interesting as the IRS decision itself, a single word in the President’s response is worthy of Diversity practitioners’ attention. “I don’t care whether you’re a Democrat, independent, or Republican,” President Obama said. “If you’ve got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and non-partisan way, then that is outrageous, it’s contrary to our traditions, and people have to be held accountable, and it’s got to be fixed.”
Among the most pervasive, public and prized forms of intractable conflict is that between institutional political parties. Partisanship, at times even to the extreme, is an increasingly accepted and endorsed sociopolitical norm around the globe. Political rules of engagement are usually well-defined in law, widely understood, and loyal adherence by citizens can sustain a condition of relative social and political stability as it has in some nations for centuries.
Political differences are a staple of American life. In the United States, employees of government organizations naturally hold dear their ability to engage in the system of controlled political conflict. Their party affiliations and passionate political beliefs with few exceptions should have little or no bearing on their ability to gain employment at the IRS. At the same time and as the President clearly articulated that those same workers have an obligation to set aside rightful, cherished and otherwise fully sanctioned political conflict in order to effectively and impartially execute the office for which they were hired.
Could this directive of neutrality and the related thinking, attitudinal and behavioral implications apply where other differences similarly impede judgment?
Its worth noting, President Obama didn’t use clichéd inducements for IRS employees to “celebrate political diversity” or “embrace political differences” to crystalize his expectations of them. He didn’t ask for IRS Democrats to “value the differences” of their Republican cousins. It likely never crossed the President’s mind to consider encouraging IRS employees to take a course in “inter-political competence” to serve clients more effectively from across the aisle.
Even the term “nonpartisan,” arguably a more universally understood political term of art for unbiased and impartial political decision making came in second to his salient “neutral” characterization of performance excellence in administering service to American citizens in a fair and just manner. In typical Obama form, his impeccable, thoughtful word choices cut straight to the heart of the matter, while revealing as much about himself as it contributed to the clarity of directive.
The concept of neutrality isn’t new. Though seemingly narrowly examined and applied in the past, there is a carefully thought out and well developed framework for its application in the management of differences. Neutrality has been a significant consideration in some of history’s most important discourses on intense carnal conflicts from the American Civil War to the European Theater of WWII, to today’s global asymmetric war on terrorism, and to varied conflicts of other types, from bullying and homosexuality to matters of religious differences. Though not always successfully executed, neutrality policies have extended from deeply held individual moral and ethical convictions and decisions all the way up to business competition and commerce, even to supporting the Constitution of the United States.
Is it time to reconsider the role and implications of neutrality in the context of cultural diversity, inclusion and equity? InclusiveWorks® will explore how neutrality has been the invisible core in expressed objectives of Diversity programs, yet ironically has been disguised and even inhibited by the typically prescribed approach to managing differences in both social and work settings.
With much less effort than “Diversity” concepts, a CultureNeutral® Framework can be more easily taught and understood, more broadly and clearly applied. As well, we believe it can be more effectively deployed and lower cost with greater impact than traditional “Diversity” interventions.
InclusiveWorks® invites you to explore with us how CultureNeutral® thinking may well take the place of “Diversity” in the years to come…and why it should.
© Robert D. Jones 2013, All Rights Reserved
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