Are Middle East organizations missing out on diversity?

Our region is a truly remarkable place, one of geographical ethnicity, cultural and religious diversity. After spending a decade in the Gulf, I rarely blink an eyelid when I enter a room and find as many nationalities and languages as I do people.

While the rich melting pot of peoples is evident, particularly across the Gulf, it’s a different story when you enter the boardroom. While I tend to steer away from generalizations, the typical board and management structure would suggest that far too many of our business leaders are surrounding themselves with people from similar backgrounds, including nationality, language and ethnicity.

The consequence of bringing in what I deem to be copycat executives is the development of a yes culture, a management practice of agreeing with whatever the CEO or general manager says without any thought being given, without any challenging, assessing or even discussion of an idea which comes from the top down.

The creation of a yes culture, where no discussion is ventured into once the head of the company has spoken, is dangerous. The company’s leadership begins to believe in its infallibility. While employees may feel a need to agree with all their management says, customers and the general public may take a different view on the decisions being made.

And this is why diversity needs to come to the fore. Smart, successful business leaders understand that diversity isn’t just physical, it also applies to opinions, passions and skills. A diverse workplace embraces debate and allows employees to share their views, even if they disagree with management.

Moving outside of the workplace, the region’s consumers are veritable united nations, with as many nationalities as there are nations living in the region’s countries. Diversity doesn’t just benefit a company’s internal operations, it also helps to better shape strategies that will appeal to more of your customer base.

In essence, diversity can and should become a differentiator for your business, a strategic edge that will win over the customers that your less diverse competitors are losing. The question is, despite all the obvious benefits of diversity in the workplace why are our business leaders missing out?

Alex Malouf is the GCC-based communications specialist and Professional Development & Knowledge Sharing Co-Chair for the Middle East Public Relations Association.
Alex Malouf
Alex Malouf