No matter what is happening in the political arena. The inclusion genie is out of the bottle. As we continue to expand our global and digital footprints, our workplaces are becoming increasingly diverse and complex. The positives gained from embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are here to stay. Empowered, productive employees and a more satisfied client base are not to be undone. You see, most organizations did not embrace diversity efforts because they just felt good about doing what was ethically right – DEI has also been about driving innovation, productivity, and better decision-making. It was the smart thing to do in an ultra-competitive job market. However, amidst all the progress we are making, we have also seen a growing backlash against these initiatives. As committed leaders in this turbulent climate, how do we resist this backlash and continue to effectively serve our diverse clientele and staff?
7 Ways to Resist DEI Backlash
1. Understand DEI Backlash
The first step towards tackling any problem is to understand it. DEI backlash is often rooted in a misunderstanding, fear, or resistance to change. It can stem from a perceived threat to power dynamics, privilege, or cultural identity. Recognizing these sentiments is crucial in addressing them.
2. Foster Open Dialogue
A primary factor that fuels the DEI backlash is a lack of open dialogue. Facilitate conversations that allow team members to voice their concerns, clarify misconceptions, and challenge their biases. Recognize that these conversations might be uncomfortable, but they are essential in building a culture that values differences and invites diversity of thought.
3. Educate and Train
Training sessions can help your team understand the benefits of DEI, unlearn biases, and cultivate inclusive behaviors. Incorporate learning modules that elucidate how diverse perspectives boost creativity, decision-making, and problem-solving skills. Adopt tools like the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) to assess intercultural competence and create individualized plans for development.
4. Maintain Consistency in Leadership
Leading by example is key to resisting DEI backlash. As executives and HR professionals, align your actions and words with the principles of DEI. Consistently reinforcing DEI values through your actions will set the tone for your organization.
5. Build Bridges, Not Walls
Inclusion is about fostering connections between people, not creating divisions. Connect the DEI backlash to the larger conversation about social and economic inequality. Build bridges between your diverse workforce by focusing on common goals and shared values.
6. Embed DEI in the Organization’s Strategic Planning
Institutionalizing DEI can create an environment where backlash is minimized. Embed DEI in your organization’s mission, strategies, policies, and procedures. It should not be an isolated initiative, but an integral part of the business.
7. Support Affected Employees
Be vigilant in supporting those affected by DEI backlash. Ensure they have resources and systems in place to voice their concerns and grievances. Make it clear that discrimination and exclusion will not be tolerated.
Resisting DEI backlash is an ongoing process. It requires patience, resilience, and a commitment to fostering a culture of inclusivity. Remember, leaders make a difference. Both change and stability start at the top. Make sure top leaders and senior managers communicate the right message – one of acceptance, respect, and unity. They also must articulate “why DEI is important to the organization’s mission.” Leadership often means going first, paving the way, and shining a light toward what should be, not what was. Let’s continue to illuminate the path to a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.
How have you resisted DEI backlash? I would love to hear from you.