Workplace Culture: The Impact of Valuing Differences

Seventy percent of college graduates leave their first job within two years of starting it because they don’t feel the job is a good fit for them. Eighty-five percent of people fired last year were fired because of relationship problems at work. Approximately 65–85 percent of mergers and acquisitions fail to deliver the desired results for which the companies come together, largely because of company culture clashes that cause top talent to exit the organization or lose focus and energy.

Being able to attract and retain top talent brings bottom line benefits to any workplace. By some estimates, the cost of rehiring an employee knowledge worker is $70,000, including hiring, training, and lost productivity.

Given these staggering challenges related to workplace culture, the question is, how do we foster a company culture that will allow us to retain our top talent, to ensure the fit of diverse individuals, and to realize real value from strategic mergers and acquisitions? The answer lies in our ability to understand and value differences in a way that allows each person to contribute his or her best within the organization.

For example, the Blue approach to work is steady, ordered, and enduring. To a workplace culture, Blues bring stability and emotional security. They tend to create and appreciate beauty, including beauty in their workplace surroundings. Their best value is in their loyalty—both to people and to the organization. They are sincere and trustworthy in relationships, and can keep employees focused and productive during times of stress and transition. Blues value their connections to others and consistently appreciate others’ contributions. If you don’t value a Blue’s loyalty, honesty and creativity in the workplace, then the Blue’s capacity to provide stability and assurance will wane; he or she will shy away from public exposure and may become confused and vulnerable.

In contrast, the Yellow approach to work is based on quick results and a willingness to take some risks. Yellows feel valued when they are given the space and freedom to creatively achieve their goals. A Yellow’s best value is often with short-term, people-oriented projects with visible results. If you don’t use a Yellow’s passion to your advantage, then you may end up with a noncommittal employee who doesn’t get around to following through on his or her commitments.  Energy will flag, and the morale of the team will be negatively impacted.

Reds thrive in leadership positions, and they relish opportunities to be fully responsible. A Red’s best value is often in a task-oriented environment, where he or she can make decisions and delegate some of the work to others. Reds tend to expect loyalty and obedience, especially when they are in positions of power, and this expectation can exacerbate office politics. On the other hand, if you don’t let Reds own or be responsible for the results they commit to, then you may lose the energy of some of your most tenacious, resilient, and high-potential employees.

In comparison, the White approach to work is to effectively handle bureaucratic environments. Whites tend to stay calm under pressure and prefer a somewhat slower pace in order to take time to reflect and think through the task at hand. Their best value comes in their clarity and diplomacy. Whites are very self-regulated and bring a sense of balance and peace to the workplace. If you don’t value Whites, then they may increasingly avoid conflict, and may demonstrate passive aggression to resist the dominance of other personalities. More than any of the others, Whites may disengage from the team and/or withhold their points of view if they do not believe their insights and approach to work are valued.

One tendency I’ve noticed in the workplace is for hiring managers to hire people they perceive to be just like them. So, a Red manager will have a preference for hiring Red employees and promoting Reds into management; a Yellow manager will have a preference for hiring other Yellow employees and for promoting Yellows into management. The unconscious thought is that if someone has the same approach to work that I do, he or she will be a good “fit” for the job. However, there are risks inherent in homogeneous environments—the dominant group will inevitably overlook opportunities or important data that another of the groups will notice and act on. The dominant group may also alienate the other groups and thereby lose their talent and capabilities. As a consequence, the homogeneous organization will lose its ability to adapt to change, to innovate, and to lead.

In my experience managing the training and delivery of worldwide sales kickoff events, where we bring 1,500 employees together to celebrate their accomplishments and to prepare for another successful year, I’ve seen the benefits of a workplace culture that allowed each of the colors to effectively contribute to the event.

In preparation for the event, the Blues on my team thought through every detail of the training from a participant’s perspective, including who would be in the room and what each participant would need in order to learn. The Blues paid attention to the various learning styles, including the visual, audio, and kinesthetic aspects of each training session. They also made sure every presenter and support person was personally acknowledged and appreciated for their contributions.

The Yellows on the team ensured that the event was entertaining in a way that would keep the sales people’s attention. The Yellows understood that the kickoff was not just a learning event, but also had the potential to be an experience that could thoroughly engage and excite the participants long after the event was over. They provided high value in brainstorming ideas, finding creative ways to interact, and generating excitement for the new approaches we wanted to try.

The Reds on the team could instantly see everything that needed to be in place to make the event actually happen. The Reds kept the planning team on track by organizing and assigning tasks and by identifying key decisions that needed to be made. They ensured that executives were involved as champions of the learning program and that communication was efficiently cascaded. They were enthusiastic and insistent and made sure nothing fell through the cracks.

The Whites could see with clarity even during the most chaotic of times. They could anticipate potential challenges, especially when it came to conflicting priorities. They took time to think through decisions that others wanted to make on the spur of the moment. Even during periods of high stress, the Whites kept us calm and level headed, ensuring we stayed focused on the goal we were trying to achieve.

Imagine what would happen if the culture of our workplaces was similar to the event team I’ve described—with the talent and capability of each of the colors appreciated and allowed to provide their fullest value. New college hires would find themselves in a workplace where they are able to help create an environment that works for both them and the company. Mergers and acquisitions would have a higher rate of success because employees would welcome diverse opinions and learn from those with different work styles. Firings due to relationship difficulties would become less frequent because managers and employees would value diversity and expect less conformity.

As a result of appreciating and leveraging what each individual has to offer, we will be able to attract and retain top talent, and bring measurable value to the bottom line of the organization. <

Karen VanUitert, (Yellow) has been passionate for the Color Code over the last ten plus years. She currently runs her own business after  working for Novell Inc. for 18 years. Karen certified in the Color  Code Training in March 2007, she continues to use the Color Code to help people in  their professional and personal lives. which in turn helps them to be more successful in work and life.

Diversity Defined

Workplace diversity is a people issue, focused on the differences and similarities that people bring to an organization. It is usually defined broadly to include dimensions beyond those specified legally in equal opportunity and affirmative action non-discrimination statutes. Diversity is often interpreted to include dimensions that influence the identities and perspectives that people bring, such as profession, education, parental status and geographic location.

As a concept, diversity is considered to be inclusive of everyone. In many ways, diversity initiatives complement non-discrimination compliance programs by creating the workplace environment and organizational culture for making differences work. Diversity is about learning from others who are not the same, about dignity and respect for all, and about creating workplace environments and practices that encourage learning from others and capture the advantage of diverse perspectives.

Reprinted with permission
Susan Woods, Managing Partner, Henderson Woods, LLC
Cornell University ILR (retired)

Deb Schmidle, Director
Collections, Reference, Instruction, and Outreach
Olin and Uris Libraries
Cornell University


Flying Colors

The Color Code is everywhere, even 30,000 feet in the air. I recently flew across the country with my 15-month-old baby. My husband had a conference to attend in Florida. And, Yellow that he is, he insisted that our baby and I tag along to make a vacation out of it. A five-hour flight with a one-year-old? Sure, what could wrong?

The flight there was heavenly. Our baby, Maggie, was a dream. She ate her snacks, she played with toys, she waved sweetly to the people seated around us. What was I so worried about? Traveling with a baby is a piece of cake. I’d seen those frazzled, sweaty parents running through the airport. I’d watched as they chased their toddlers up and down the airplane aisles. I’d even laughed at the juice stains and discarded fruit snacks stuck to their clothes. Not me. Not my baby. Someone might as well just give me my “Mother of the Year” award now.

We had a fabulous stay. The hotel was lovely. The ocean water was warm. Maggie slept well and charmed the fellow hotel guests with her repertoire of animal noises. The only problem was the size of my growing ego. I arrived at the airport for our return flight with all the confidence in the world. And that is when reality kicked me in the gut.

Somewhere along the drive from our hotel to the airport, our perfect baby was replaced by a wild, screaming, kicking machine. The flight was a nightmare. The only thing that would keep Maggie semi-quiet was to kick the back of the (occupied) seat in front of us. She threw every snack she was offered onto the floor. She spit out her juice. With a strength I did not know she was capable of, she spun her whole body out of my lap and onto the floor, where she would stick who-knows-what in her mouth and then make a mad dash for the aisle. If I would have had my “Mother of the Year” award handy at that point, I might have used it to knock myself out for the remainder of the flight.

But alas, that was not an option. So instead I kept myself sane by playing one of my favorite games: What Color Are They? The woman seated across the aisle who simply couldn’t keep her concern to herself…what color is she? “I think maybe her ears are hurting her. Oh, the poor thing! I remember when my babies were that age and their ears caused so much trouble. Here,” she says, grabbing my baby’s ears and tugging, “try this. This always worked. I just hate to think about her ears hurting her. There’s really nothing worse…” and on, and on, and on. “Blue,” I think to myself, as I smile and nod at her.

The gentleman seated in the row ahead of us, who acted as if he’d been waiting years for the chance to play peek-a-boo…what color is he? One glance at him turned around in his seat, making every ridiculous face and sound he can think of to try and make my baby smile, and there is no doubt: Yellow. Or how about the woman who marched right up to me (as I stood bouncing a squirming, wriggling baby in the one-inch space in front of the lavatory), and, without any introduction or time wasted, offered me one sentence of advice. “Give her Benadryl next time,” she commanded. Red.

And finally there’s the man sharing our row. The man who was repeatedly hit in the head with toys. The man whose magazine was ripped away from him by the chubby hands of a demanding toddler. The man whose tray table was pounded on and whose ear was screamed in. The man who did not say one word, let alone make eye contact with me, for the entire five hours. Hmmm, I’m thinking White. We landed and I turned to him and began spewing out every apology I could think of. I got two words out of him: no problem. Yep, definitely White.

And so it was that I survived the flight with the help of the Color Code. Now if only it could help me get these juice stains out of my clothes.


Lindsay has been working with the Color Code for six years, first as Dr. Hartman’s assistant, then in the trainer services department. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University, where she studied English Language. She is a core Blue with a strong secondary White. 


Ask The Expert

Dear Jeremy,
I work in sales, and I was wondering if there is a way to read a person’s Color Code without having them take the profile?
– Doug

Hello, Doug.

There sure is! In fact, it’s pretty simple. I call the technique, “Quick Coding”, and I’ve put together a little training video that will show you how to do it. Quick Coding is an extremely valuable skill to master whether you are in sales, leadership, or simply trying to manage your own personal relationships. You don’t want to miss this one!

Check out the video here:

Training Video: Quick Coding 101

Very best of living,

Jeremy Daniel
Jeremy Daniel (Core Color: Yellow) has been working with the Color Code since 1998 in various capacities from training in the field personally with Dr. Taylor Hartman to designing customized corporate solutions and new training programs for various industries.  To ask about Jeremy’s training or speaking services, please email and inquiry to