The goal of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is to address workplace inequities and develop companies that better represent, acknowledge, and support diverse identities. Managers are a front-line touchpoint in developing and implementing initiatives to achieve this goal. Yet, many well-intentioned initiatives can have inadvertent harmful effects. Managers must be intentional about their DEI plans; learning how to avoid these 5 common mistakes most managers make is a great start.
1) Using DEI As A Metric
Managers make a mistake when they consider their job finished after singular or minimal DEI engagement. DEI is a constant practice that must be integrated at every level of a company, from the hiring and onboarding process to day-to-day operations. Examples include setting diverse employee demographic goals, having a continuous and extensive regular DEI curriculum, sourcing regular employee feedback, or creating book clubs and discussion groups. All of these ideas contribute to the overall goal of integrating rather than simply satisfying DEI.
2) Avoiding Difficult Conversations At Work
“Turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to injustice is injustice.” Renita Siqueira
To be an effective leader, you must lead with integrity and honesty while ensuring your team members feel seen and heard. We do not always have immediate answers when diversity challenges arise, but we should not avoid engaging in conversations around this vital topic. By improving cultural competency in yourself and your teams, you will become more confident about engaging in difficult conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Don’t let your fear replace your curiosity with learning and exploring topics and conversations about diversity.
Be an example and show what it looks like to work towards equity and inclusion. Continue to educate, understand, and build empathy for others as you help your teams work towards a more inclusive work environment.
“Being an ally means taking an active role to do whatever is within your power to ensure all individuals are treated equitably.” – Author Unknown.
There is no caveat to being an Ally. You don’t get to call yourself an ally if you’re unwilling to step in when someone is being bullied, harassed, or made to feel less-than. True leaders develop a practice of re-evaluating their and their teams’ professional growth; this includes DEI strategies to lead their team toward equity and inclusion. They support and seek to end oppressive practices that systemically disempower groups while helping elevate those silenced or made to feel invisible.
3) Tokenize (and burden) Marginalized Employees.
Tokenism occurs when managers make symbolic DEI choices to give the appearance of diversity without actually ceding power—and it can have a huge workplace impact. Tokens are often expected to offer free emotional labor and can face acute stress and loneliness. The best way to avoid tokenism is by hiring more diverse workers. But managers should also think deeply about the motivations and underlying assumptions they have for making certain DEI decisions. People with marginalized identities are not pawns for public image, and they are not responsible for educating others on their identities either.
4) Fail to acknowledge intersectionality.
Coined by feminist scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s, intersectionality acknowledges how our multiple identities overlap and cumulatively impact how we are discriminated against. The more marginalized identities someone possesses, the more discrimination they face. The numbers speak to this; in 2019, only 21% of C-suite executives were women. Among that, people of color made up only 4%, and Black women only 1%. And while 29.8% of overall LGBT employees in a recent study reported experiencing employment discrimination, transgender LGB workers were disproportionately impacted compared to their cisgender counterparts at 48.8% and 27.8%, respectively. Managers must be attentive to how the intersectionality of identities affects workers’ experiences. Listen to and believe workers’ feedback, and encourage unconscious bias training for all employees, especially in C-suite and managerial positions.
5) Unchecked Implicit Biases
The term “implicit bias” refers to interactions with people that are influenced by stereotypes or negative associations without conscious knowledge of the impact said bias has on the interaction. Whether we like to admit it or not, our unexamined biases can start to fog the lens through which we see and engage with the world. Only after careful inward examination can we begin to address our biases. These held beliefs can negatively influence our interactions with others, working counter to any DEI efforts.
Follow these (3) steps to help minimize your biases:
- Educate yourself on diversity and the vital role it plays in the workplace.
- Find opportunities to talk with people who have a different lived experience than your own.
- Broaden your viewpoints.
It takes energy and hard work to create an inclusive work culture. It starts with your leadership. Inclusive leadership is not about grand gestures. It’s about making small changes that create opportunities for people to be heard and seen.
Equity doesn’t require that you have first-hand experience of someone’s life. It simply asks that you be kind, supportive, and recognize (without judgment) what a person has gone through in their life to get them where they are today. Consider this an excellent opportunity to lean into uncomfortable conversations. Schedule a DEI consultation to grow your cultural understanding and create an inclusive space where the whole person can show up for work.