Global Nomads in the Workplace - what do diverse identities add to your team..?
While I write this blog, the tunes of the song Motherland from Nathalie Merchant sound in my headphones. It reminds me of the conversation I recently facilitated with a group of amazing women from eleven different nations from the MENA (Middle East, North Africa) region. It led me to think about identity and how I often notice how people are ‘reduced’ to one single identity when we address people as coming from a certain nation/homeland. I like to advocate for a much more nuanced approach in our global workplaces.
Often people ask me if the globalization of the world and the growth of global organizations will lead to ‘one global culture’. I can relate to that idea, as more and more people lead the lives of World Citizens: working internationally, or being born in one part of the world and living, studying and/or working in another. However, I think the contrary: people build their individual, complex identities through various experiences, including cross-cultural, and contribute these backgrounds to the richness of the teams they are working in.
I found the conversation with the women from the MENA region extremely inspiring and insightful. Each one of these very intelligent, outspoken and unique women is a leader in their field, either in business, government, academia or a combination. They steered our conversation in the direction of “Identity” as they did not recognize themselves in the way they were announced to be from the “MENA region”. They did not identify with such a region in the first place - which is probably not very surprising if you look at the historic, political, and cultural diversity those countries represent. In addition, most of the women have lived and worked abroad. Clearly, they identified not only with their countries/regions of birth, but also with other parts of the world where they had lived, worked and studied.
A few days after this conversation, I spoke with a couple who had lived in many countries all over the globe because of his work in diplomacy. Each time they needed to pack up and start over again in a new country. Our conversation continued about the question: “where is home and where do you identify? Marion described how with each move they left something behind and took something with them, all adding to new experiences and to a rich and complex identity of being a Global Nomad. Accepting this nuanced complexity and appreciating the beauty of the diversity of people around us makes us into world citizens. It reminded me of the word “Yurt”, which in Turkish means Motherland, but is also the word for tent of Nomadic people. Homelands need not to be rooted, but can be portable instead!
I realized once more that, instead of ‘reducing’ people to nationals from country X, Y or Z, or even from a certain region, organizations should embrace the diversity of global citizens with their various perspectives, rich world-views and especially the powerful potential they possess to build bridges between people in and between the organizations where they work. Allowing people to set up their ‘Nomad tents’ into our organizations will result in even richer working relations!