Mind Readings: Why Many Diversity Efforts Fail

There are four levels of diversity and inclusion in terms of what outcomes we should realistically expect. Only one of the four is achievable.

Mind Readings: Why Many Diversity Efforts Fail
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Christopher Penn 0:15

In today’s mind reading, let’s talk about, let’s talk about diversity and why a lot of diversity initiatives and things of that nature tend not to work as well as they should.

Part of the problem is the language that we’re using, and the way in which we implement a lot of these programs.

And the expectations that we have, once these programs are initiated, to me, there’s four fundamental levels of what I guess you would bucket under this whole diversity and inclusion thing.

The first level, and one that has something of a negative connotation now, but is, I think accurate, is tolerance.

Right? Tolerance means you tolerate something you are willing to endure or put up with something.

Even if you don’t like it, and you tolerate it, I tolerate people driving slowly in the left lane, at least for a little while.

I don’t like it, like people who do that.

But I can understand there are cases where that might be the thing to do.

Or there are certain ways people learn to drive in the context of diversity and inclusion, tolerance, is the first step that you take from being overtly hostile towards somebody else.

Because of a protected class characteristics like race, sexual orientation, gender, identity, religion, etc.

We go from not being okay with it, not putting up with it, not tolerating it to tolerating it.

And that’s, that’s realistic, that’s achievable, right? To say to somebody, look, you know, your job, relies on everybody in the company working together in some fashion, you don’t have to be best friends, you don’t have to be drinking buddies.

You don’t have to go out on a date, you shouldn’t go out on a date.

But you do have to be civil.

Right? You do have to give people a fair shake.

And that’s sort of the first level from from not tolerating, to tolerance.

And you can mandate that, and you can measure that and you can implement programs to create tolerance.

It’s after this point, that we run into trouble.

The next level is acceptance.

If tolerance is like, you know, you don’t like Asian people, and I happen to come and work for your company.

You have to tolerate me.

You don’t have to do anything more than that.

Right? The company says you must earn equal opportunity workplace, you’re stuck with me, you have to tolerate me.

Acceptance is that second level where I, as a minority, don’t provoke a negative emotional response anymore, right? You’ve accepted like, this is the way it is, I come to work every day.

You know, Chris is nice.

He doesn’t steal people’s lunches from the the cafeteria, fridge or whatever, gets his work done doesn’t cause trouble, etc.

And you accept you accept that? Yes, there are now Asian people in your midst, if you will.

And acceptance is it’s a change in emotional state, you’re someone else, a person who was just tolerating, has now gotten to the point where they don’t feel that emotional resistance anymore.

They’ve accepted.

Maybe they’ve you know, I suppose you could say they’ve given up resisting, in some ways, but more charitably, maybe they’ve gotten to know me and find out, you know, what, yes, I’m Asian, but I’m not such a bad guy.

Otherwise, they accept me.

That’s the second level.

The third level, and this is where I think we get into trouble is inclusion.

Right? Inclusion means you are proactively including somebody else in things.

From hey, let’s all go out to the bar after work and get some drinks together.

Right, which is something we used to do before the pandemic.

When a project comes along, Hey, who do I want on my team? Oh, let’s include Chris.

When

Christopher Penn 4:54

somebody in our circle of friends is getting married, who should we invite to the wedding? Oh, let’s include the person, right? That’s inclusion.

So now you’ve gone from tolerance, which is dislike but putting up with it to acceptance, which is sort of an emotionally neutral place to inclusion where you’re reaching out and proactively saying, You know what, I want you to be part of this.

And this is a really easy thing, in some ways to diagnose because all you got to do is follow folks to, you know, the bar or whatever, afterwards and see who talks to whom, right, who includes whom.

And if you see a whole bunch of people who are one gender, or one race, or one religion, or one sexual orientation, sort of not including everybody else, you know, you’ve got an inclusivity problem.

Now, can you fix that? No, no, you can’t.

Because in a case like that you’re dealing with something with people do outside of work, right? But what you can do is create environments where people interact with each other more at the level of tolerance, so that you create the conditions where acceptance can occur, and where inclusion can eventually occur, right.

And then the fourth level, is celebration.

And again, this is voluntary.

But this is where somebody who was opposed, is now no longer opposed.

Right? So they’ve gone from opposed but tolerating it to no longer post acceptance to being inclusive.

Like yeah, you’re not, I kind of like hanging out with with Chris, you know, Asian people aren’t all that bad.

Right? To celebration, where now you flipped things around.

Now you’ve changed their minds, to the point where they say, you know, what, maybe I was really wrong about about Asian people, man, I really want about Korean people, Hey, tell me more about like, your favorite Asian foods, or tell me more about your family or tell me more about the the country of your ethnic origin.

Or that person is now taking steps to what we would call celebrating that diversity, celebrating the differences in a positive way.

And no longer being emotionally negative about it.

And that’s sort of the the fourth, I would, I would say probably the highest level of diversity and inclusion is when you get to people proactively, voluntarily, and eagerly celebrating the differences and trying to learn more about those differences with others.

Now, here’s, again, this is where a lot of things go wrong.

You can’t mandate that you cannot programming into people.

You can’t force people to be inclusive, to be accepting, to be celebratory of other’s differences, you just can’t.

Because all those are internal emotional things.

And you can certainly get somebody to say that they are right, if you tell somebody, Hey, your job relies on working together with others.

And we’ll be evaluating everybody for their diversity and inclusiveness.

Yeah, sure, you can get people to give lip service to that all day long.

But if inside their heart, they don’t, then the only thing you can create is tolerance.

Right? The only thing you create is that environment where people of different backgrounds work together and get to know each other and hopefully, hopefully, on their own move up that ladder, to acceptance to inclusion to celebration.

That’s the hope.

So we have to be careful about how we talk about diversity and inclusion because we cannot be inclusive in the truest emotional sense.

We cannot force somebody to be inclusive, it just doesn’t work.

Bad things happen.

And you can’t make somebody like somebody else.

Especially if people are receiving read, stereotype reinforcing or bias reinforcing information elsewhere.

So if the if somebody doesn’t like Asian people, they may tolerate me at work, but if they then go home and go on Facebook and all their friends are bashing Asian people, all night long.

Christopher Penn 9:56

It’s gonna be really hard to get that person Even to tolerance, right? So give some thought to that when we’re talking about diversity inclusion about what we’re asking of people to takeaways to think about what we’re asking of people and set our expectations realistically for what is what is achievable.

And what is achievable is putting people in situations where they do have to work together in civil ways.

Beyond that, everything else that happens after that is gravy.

Right? If if you do get acceptance, if you do get inclusion, if you do get celebration, if you do change minds and hearts, that’s gravy, that’s that’s awesome.

If it happens, we cannot mandate that as as people who own businesses or manage people, as much as we would like to.

So that’s today’s mind reading.

Give some thought we’d love to hear your feedback about these different terms that we use, and how you think about them and how you implement them.

Thanks for watching.


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