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Going beyond names: identities and feedback in the workplace 



It’s no coincidence Barcelona is hosting Fa!r, the workplace diversity conference of this spring in Europe. This is a place where various  cultures blend and histories intertwine, while diversity of identities takes on a multitude of meanings. 


What identity is about


Diversity is a prism through which we view ourselves and others, often categorized into three distinct yet interconnected types: demographic, experiential, and cognitive. Diversity, a term as broad as the human experience itself, can be distilled into three primary types: demographic, experiential, and cognitive. Each of these facets contributes to the creation of our identity, influencing not only how we see the world but also how the world sees us.


  1. Demographic identity: our gender, race, sexual orientation, and other innate characteristics form our identities of origin. These are the traits we are born with, the unchangeable aspects of who we are that travel with us throughout life. In the workplace, this diversity can shape perceptions and biases, impacting the feedback we receive in ways both subtle and overt.

  2. Experiential identity: this covers our hobbies, abilities, and life experiences. These identities of growth evolve over time, influenced by our surroundings, choices, and the people we meet. They enrich our perspectives, enabling us to connect with a broader range of colleagues and situations. The feedback we receive at work often reflects these shared or divergent experiences, highlighting our adaptability and empathy.

  3. Cognitive identity: how we think, solve problems, and view the world constitutes our cognitive identity. These are our identities of aspiration, seeking out those who complement and challenge our ways of thinking. In a professional setting, it fosters innovation and creativity, as the feedback we receive pushes us forward.


How workplace feedback aligns with identity 


Diverse identities influence the feedback we receive and how we perceive and react to it. For instance, demographic identity may lead to feedback that, intentionally or not, reflects societal biases or stereotypes. It challenges organisations to cultivate an environment of inclusion and respect, where feedback is constructive, fair, and devoid of prejudice.


Experiential identity encourages a culture of learning and growth, where feedback is meant to connect various backgrounds and foster a sense of community.


Lastly, cognitive identity makes feedback innovative and problem solving focused. It demands an openness to new ideas and perspectives, where feedback is a collaborative effort to explore new possibilities and achieve collective goals.


Identities at work: origin, growth, aspiration


In the workplace, feedback is not merely about performance; it's also about recognizing and valuing the diverse identities employees bring to the table. And this creates 3 types of feedback based on the contextual identity perceived. 


  1. Identities of origin. This is feedback that acknowledges and respects identities of origin can foster an environment of inclusivity and respect. Companies that are attentive to these identities through diversity and inclusion policies create a space where every employee feels valued from the outset.

  2. Identities of growth. This feedback can be a nurturing force that acknowledges personal development and emotional ties within the workplace. Minimal intervention is advisable, as these communities are organic and self-sustaining. 

  3. Identities of aspiration. Feedback within this context nurtures innovation and creative problem-solving. This approach leverages the diverse cognitive abilities of the workforce to drive the company forward.


The workplace is a microcosm of society, and by fostering an environment where diverse identities are acknowledged and valued, we not only enhance the individual and collective experience but also pave the way for a more inclusive, innovative, and empathetic world.

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