It was a bright and sunny day in California, unseasonably warm. The staff gathered in the open atrium at the base of the stairs. It was their first day together as a full team, their first day as a real company with a headquarters.
None of the employees dared speak. Instead, they witnessed. The meeting was basically a conversation between the CEO and the COO - partners and founders of this promising high-tech startup.
The CEO and COO were male, and most of the small staff was male as well.
All of the employees needed their jobs.
Let's listen in.
* * *
"I want to make it great," the CEO was saying.
"How great?" said the COO.
"Insanely great, said the CEO. "I want a place where ideas go to have sex."
"Wow," said the COO. "That is inspiring."
"I want a company so great its ideas are testicular."
"No way," said the COO. "That is unbelievable."
"That's right," said the CEO. "I don't want any second-rate Ph.D.'s either. I want the best guys we can get for the job."
"Consider it done," said the COO. "We'll need some brochures though, or something to get the word out."
"Make it happen then!" said the CEO. "Lay it out like a Playboy. Super-simple to understand, incredible value proposition, gorgeous to contemplate."
"No way," said the COO, admiringly. "This plan is genius."
"That's right," said the CEO. "I want to get some action going right away. I'm sick of sitting around waiting for something to happen."
"I'll get right on it," said the COO.
"So we're gonna need a brand," said the CEO. "A good one. There's too many companies nipping at our heels already."
"A brand?" said the COO. "That's a tall order. I mean, I'll do my best and everything to find a good designer."
"You can do it, COO," said the CEO. "I have every confidence in you."
"Thank you so much, CEO," said the COO.
"Just remember," said the CEO, "we've got to make it killer from the very beginning. High heels, red lipstick, vavoom."
The room fell silent.
An uncomfortable pause.
"Alright then," said the COO. "Is there anything else, before we proceed to the next order of business?"
*Of course, this conversation never happened. But it could have. The desirable workplace is one that goes beyond superficial expressions of diversity, and even beyond inclusion, to demonstrate intense attention to emotional intelligence, sensitivity, and empathy at work. Nobody should ever be squirming in their seat because they aren't part of the in-group, whether that group is defined by gender, class, race, ethnicity, culture, or anything else.
Copyright 2015 Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of BrandSuccess, a corporate content provider, and co-founder of the brand thought leadership portal All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. Photo credit: Pascal via Flickr (Public Domain).