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Ask Ash

18 February 13

Advice column: I think I may have been appointed to achieve diversity. I want to prove my worth

Dear Ash

I managed to secure a senior post last year along with one other person. I put a lot of effort into preparing for the post and was really pleased when I was offered the job from apparently a high number of candidates. However, one of my colleagues recently advised me that my line manager had been bragging about the fact that he had fulfilled his diversity requirements by recruiting me. I have an Asian background, but resent any accusation of my appointment being racially motivated. The other person appointed alongside me was Caucasian, but his ethnic origin is clearly not relevant: neither should mine be! I’m unsure whether to raise the point with the line manager as I’m feeling insecure about my position and working extra hours just to prove my worth.

Ash replies

It is unfortunate that your line manager seems to think he has done you some sort of favour by selecting you for the job. Personally speaking, I do not feel that any form of positive discrimination, i.e. being favoured by an employer solely because of your ethnicity or sexuality, is necessarily a good thing, as I’m sure colleagues may then question your credentials and entitlement to the post.

The fact that your line manager seemed to brag about his intentions makes your position understandably awkward. I would, however, suggest that you consider speaking to your manager on an informal basis to make clear that you are committed to proving yourself and that you want to ensure that you are in your post because of merit.

Try to ensure that during the meeting you are able to highlight your skills for the job and how you would like to progress your career. In short, focus the meeting on positive notes by highlighting why you are suited to the role and how you intend to prove yourself. Do not be tempted to be confrontational in any way, as this may backfire.

Calmly and subtly highlight your suitability for the role and your individual talents, as you may then be able to come across as any other person within the department with a job to do. It may be that your manager may eventually feel shamed into realising that he should be looking at how your skills fit the post, and not how your face fits within his perception of the department’s colour palette.

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