In this blog post, I present five paradigms that keep work teams inclusion-averse despite diversity training. Shifting the culture of an organization to one that embraces allyship, minimizes implicit bias, reduces systemic exclusion, and nurtures a healthy racial+ climate requires turning traditional diversity and inclusion training on its head. Read on for five organizational paradigms that beg to be transformed so that inclusion can thrive.
“We don’t have time for this.”
Organizations with looming deadlines, imminent deliverables, and a non-inclusive work environment tend to carry 1) an unawareness of their acclimation to bias and 2) a non-strategic fit between their financial goals and organizational values. Operational values get captured in phrases like “results-oriented,” “ambitious goals,” and “efficient.” They frequently appear to compete with espoused cultural values for collaboration, minimizing implicit bias, reducing systemic exclusion, and nurturing a healthy racial+ climate. An organization’s operational goals usually garner a focus on technical machinations - what can be readily defined, predictable, and within current scopes of knowledge.
Cultural values, alternatively, tend to require focus on blindspots, adaptive leadership (Heifetz & Linsky, 2002), and experimentation outside current scopes of knowledge. Realizing them involves shedding longstanding, but problematic beliefs, attitudes, and values, and a willingness to innovate in uncharted territory. When a leader feels the need to prioritize speedy deliverables over “time-consuming” inclusion-realization, the leader overlooks inclusion as a chronic vulnerability to achieving their goals.
“I don’t want to be seen as a trouble maker or rabble-rouser.” “I’m paid and promoted not to ruffle any feathers.”
When this sentiment is spoken by an employee, it suggests that the organizational culture rewards homogeneity, quiets difference, and represses unpalatable issues. The use of descriptors like “trouble-maker” and “rabble-rouser” are not coincidental. By definition, troublemaker commonly describes someone who habitually causes difficulty for others and they do it as a matter of malice. Rabble-rouser usually describes a politician who gains power or popularity by manipulatively inciting the emotions, bias, and prejudice of a group of people. A staff person who deviates from the norm by naming events most would rather avoid or suppress, creates distress, sure. But it's not usually from a place of malice or to manipulate others. Instead, such acts tend to unveil bias, fill in blindspots, and question taken-for-granted assumptions. In the workplace, the use of these terms to describe such a colleague creates the illusion that the person, not the issue, is the problem. If the whole group buys it, it conspires in the task of character assassination and avoids the real work. The master manipulator goes undetected and the unpalatable issue that was ripened returns to beneath the surface until the next flashpoint.
Suggested: 3 Reasons your Inclusion Strategies Yield Slow Progress & 4 Alternative Approaches to Minimizing Implicit Bias
“I don’t want to act until I know the right thing to do.” “I need a checklist of the anti-racist things to do; then, I can act.”
These sentiments indicate that aspects of the organizational climate limit fortitude development of staff members who are less experienced in problem solving race+ related matters. Under these conditions, this subsection of employees tend to express fear of making a public mistake, and cringe at the thought of being held accountable for a racial microaggression or identity abrasion towards another colleague. It incites the ego-centered work of maintaining a self-image that is non-prejudiced while trying to convince others of the same. The Racial+ Equitecture Crucible Experience builds fortitude by creating an atmosphere where employees take risks, look forward to course-correction, use feedback to improve, and are willing to keep engaging their work team with different choices and noting the varying ripple effects it has on their colleagues. The feedback, no matter what form (i.e. silence, disagreement, unpleasant emotions, etc.), is data about the group not merely individuals. For a framework to better understand the racial+ interactives and dialectics underlying group dialogues, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It's analogous to “seeing the binary codes in the matrix” while a group interacts.
“We never address racial+ dynamics here. I was advised to leave it alone by people who’ve been here the longest. So I do.”
This sentiment reveals a longstanding organizational practice of seeing race+ related problems and looking the other way. To maintain this norm, people in the environment have to ascribe a role as regulator, monitoring and regulating the behavior of others, deciding which behaviors are “appropriate” or not. It can create a very toxic work environment. Regulators are often:
blind to the toxicity experienced by their colleagues, or have an awareness of it but prefer fictitious peace over facing the fire.
inexperienced in problem solving race+ related matters in a low-stakes, high support, high challenge environment.
carrying a narrow scope of knowledge in this area.
limited in their capacity to sit in unpleasant emotions (i.e. shame, guilt, anger, confusion) and challenged ego states (I’m not racist. I’m a good person.)
Suggested: How to Increase the Inclusiveness of My Team: 9 Recommended Places to Start
When a manager says, “People make reports (to HR, management, etc) about racial microaggressions and other identity abrasions, but they’re just… ‘whining,’ ‘young, naive, and inexperienced. This is their first (or second) job out of college.’ ‘exaggerating,’ ‘oversensitive’...”
These sentiments impart rigid and myopic points of view on the leadership bench. It's rigid in that the perspective refuses to yield in the face of data. It's myopic in that it takes for granted that one experience or the experience of people in the majority is somehow more readily valid. In denial and dismissive, it exposes an absence of emotional intelligence and reveals presumptions that some employees’ experiences are naturally dubious, overreaching, and a byproduct of age. In workplaces with this kind of leadership bench, inclusion is very unlikely to get realized, innovation is likely limited, and high, performance attrition of diverse candidates is likely to follow.
You’ll notice that each sentiment, while spoken by individuals, uncovered important features of an organization’s culture. Shifting the culture of an organization to one that embraces allyship, minimizes implicit bias, reduces systemic exclusion, and nurtures a healthy racial+ climate requires turning traditional diversity and inclusion training on its head. The Racial+ Equitecture Crucible Experience is the epitome of non-tradition in this area. It provides a format for leaders in committed-to-diversity organizations to immediately dive deep, face discomfort, surface biases and seriously grapple with the institutional issues that maintain its homogeneous workforce while achieving its ambitious goals. If you're an organization/individual looking to strengthen your strategy for inclusion and diversity. Come get some.
3 Reasons your Inclusion Strategies Yield Slow Progress & 4 Alternative Approaches to Minimizing Implicit Bias
How to Increase the Inclusiveness of My Team: 9 Recommended Places to Start
6 Popular Beliefs about Race and the Scientific Contrary Every Leader Should Know
Bio: Greetings, I'm Dr. Myosha McAfee, the founder of Racial Equitecture (R+E), a company revolutionizing inclusion and diversity. I am no stranger to thinking scary big to undertake the most pressing issues of the 21st century. I help organizations unpack how implicit bias may be occurring in-house, with high support and high challenge. The Racial+ Equitecture Crucible Experience, one of my most inventive solutions, facilitates a productive container for leaders in committed-to-diversity organizations to dive deep, face discomfort, surface biases and seriously grapple with institutional issues. To workplace equity, inclusion, and diversity (EID) challenges, I bring what social scientists know about social inequality, what iconoclasts know about leadership, and what educators know about helping others acquire new skills. Is your EID strategy fresh, fearless, and forward? Come get some. For inquiries Dr. McAfee can be contacted at email@example.com.