According to research, diversity programs are failing.
They fail because of poor implementation, or in other words, no one knows what to do with the new chief diversity officer. Droves of people of color are hired, then isolated or left alone to do the work as many have reported here and here. They feel like isolated props, not active changemakers.
Thousands of dollars are spent on campaigns, consultants, and training to fix the “lack of diversity” problem. The “inclusion” solution is also wrought with challenges, as more differences and fragmentation get served.
If diversity and inclusion programs are failing at work, is work the place to be suddenly enlightened by race? It is likely that if you are having problems with microaggressions at work, you have experienced them in the supermarket and other parts of your life. It just doesn’t magically appear at work and no place else.
Today In: Leadership
According to licensed clinical psychologist, Soye Zaid-Muhammad, “The job is a good place to address multicultural issues regarding race or gender. However, it should not be the only place. We live and work within the context of transactional systems that are interdependent on one another, creating endless feedback loops.”
“The workplace is no place to address phantom race and sex issues,” says Heather Mac Donald, a Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and New York Times bestselling author of The Diversity Delusion.
“It is about work, not therapy or alleged social justice. But corporate HR departments have been hijacked by the identitarian Left. Their members seek to use the resources of corporate America to implement the ideology of academic identity politics regarding America's endemic biases. Corporate CEOs do not have the backbone to forswear the costly, unnecessary diversity scam, however.”
What people really want is to go to work and go home.
Dr. Keisha V. Thompson, associate professor of psychology at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, NY, says, “People are not necessarily looking to the job as a place to work out race and gender issues, unless that is in fact the function of their jobs. People want to be able to show up at work as themselves and be able to do their jobs without feeling discriminated against or even being punished.”
So, why is there more diversity and inclusion training than ever?
Research has shown that microaggressions and unconscious bias have a negative impact on the mental health of people of color at work.
According to Thompson, “This creates a cascade of mental health challenges, which may include issues with emotional regulation, lower self-esteem, anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, and stress. In the end, sustained mental health challenges may even manifest as poor physical health and lower quality of life.”
Curiosity, and allowing space for forgiveness can be an alternative to this maddening cycle.
Ellen Petry Leanse, a Silicon Valley veteran and Chief People Officer of Lucidworks, recommends nationally recognized inclusion strategist and diversity expert, Verna Myers’ “powerful” way of talking about “culture” and how each of us have our own, based on life experience.
Leanse says, “When we name our culture—mine might sound like, ‘I'm a white woman who grew up in a Silicon Valley suburb in the '60s and '70s, so...’— we show vulnerability about our position and own how our unique experience shapes our views. As I hear friends talk about how their unique life experience shapes their world views, I naturally "bridge" to them with empathy and understanding.”
Leanse explains that she sees the same thing happening in return when she names her context and how this may be a safe way to build perspective regardless of the “programs” around us.
Ideas based on shared values or curiosity create a container that is easily accessible, like a weekly meeting for everyone who has experienced a recent loss of a loved one, a monthly breakfast meeting for long distance commuters to meet and help each other get to work easier, or a regular meeting of people going back to school to advance their careers to keep each other focused.
Ideas that are based on differences—like another international potluck or committee to advance blacks in the company—create separation.
“Too often diversity programs mean bringing in more of a particular type of person, and having ‘international days’ where the focus is on food and other parts of culture that brings little to no value to the organization or to the individual,” says Thompson. She explains that at the end of the day people want to be able to do their jobs without being penalized for who they are. Or having to do all the work.
The work of diversity is morally good, but at the benefit of who? People of color are often tasked with fixing the diversity problem or creating “inclusive” spaces, which, for some can feel like a burden.
Thompson says, “Imagine, suffering from something, and having to cure yourself and everyone around you? The emotional labor that is oftentimes placed on such individuals in the workplace is immense. It is not only psychologically draining, but it also takes away from the person’s main function in the organization. If all your time is spent trying to educate others and create diverse spaces, when will you actually get your work done?”
Some may argue that diversity is a lost cause or that people just don’t care about race. Mac Donald says, “Corporate diversity education introduces divisions where none exist. It teaches employees to think of themselves in opposing groups and distracts from the mission of a business, which is to create a product or service as efficiently as possible to meet a market demand.” Mac Donald continues, “If employers used completely color and sex blind standards in hiring and promotion, diversity reeducation for managers would not be necessary.”
What if it really was that simple?
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