Rob is about to make a hire, and it scares the hell out of him.
The candidate is qualified and did very well during the interviews. Rob is convinced that this candidate can contribute to the team and help them meet the goals of the organization. The salary demands are well within his budgeted range and he is ready to pull the trigger. The candidate is a slam-dunk hire that is going to do amazing work and make Rob look like a staffing genius.
But none of that helps. Rob is still nervous.
Maybe the candidate is female, and he is afraid inappropriate things will be said to her that will affect her job performance. Maybe the candidate is of a different race, and he is worried that something that might be written in staff communication will be offensive to them. Perhaps the candidate is a gay man, and Rob seriously questions whether another staff member would ever accept him as an equal coworker. The candidate might be 20 years older than any current team member. Should Rob pass on this candidate for any of those or other contrived reasons? Will the team chemistry suffer because of these so-called "distractions" should they accept an offer letter?
Up to this moment, Rob has never had a candidate that was not a cookie-cutter version of his previous hires make it this far. Maybe it was because this irrational fear caught up to him much earlier than now. Perhaps at a sub-conscious level, Rob has nixed candidates long before this point to avoid facing a very ugly truth about his organization:
The hire Rob is about to make is not the problem -- the problem is the mistakes Rob made in previous hires and how he has developed his team up to now.
Now imagine you are Rob.
It is up everyone to set and defend the value system for his or her organization -- whether this be a company or civic group. It should be clear from Day 0 for any employee that the organization is welcoming to all who can contribute regardless of their sex, age, orientation, political affiliation, religious creed, or anything else not related to their ability. This value system must be reinforced at every opportunity, and made clear that the organization values diversity just as well as skill.
There is nothing more important to an organization's function than its culture. If your culture has moved to the wrong side of the objectives of the business (or society in general), then changes must be made. Reward those that share in the value system. Talk openly about why it is important. It turns out that those who do not will either grow as individuals or will look elsewhere.
The adage is to always "get the best people for the job." It is time that we define that in a broader sense -- that it is the responsibility of every person to create a welcoming environment where absolutely everyone can contribute to the best of their ability.