Stop running away from it…

I originally posted this about a year ago, but as I am at a big ass Human Resources conference this week, it seems like it might make a good “re-post.”

Stop. Running. Away.

Todays rant.

I have said numerous time before that HR should not own organizational diversity and inclusion work, and I think that there are a number of reasons for that, but lets just cut to the heart of the matter.  HR does not want to do the work.  HR likes to get credit for “getting it,” but they really want nothing to do with the work.

I can predictably sit down with HR professionals, engage in some casual conversation about diversity and hear these kinds of things:

“please just get rid of the word diversity and just focus on inclusion”

“diversity is an issue because it is a moneymaker”

“when we do not have to talk about diversity and inclusion, that will be progress”

These are paraphrased, but reflective of some comments that were part of a recent conversation I was a part of.  I think that these conversations demonstrate that HR misunderstands diversity and inclusion (just as the rest of the organization does), and they have some resentment about the work. They do not want to do it, they want it to be over.

There are certainly some huge champions for diversity and inclusion inside of HR, and HR has been a good home for this work up to this point.  But I think that today HR is a big part of the problem.  Lets consider each of these sentiments:

“please just get rid of the word diversity and just focus on inclusion”

Stop walking away from the word diversity.

Stop it.  Stop being pushed around, stop avoiding conflict, stop avoiding tension. Your discomfort isn’t about the word, its about you.  Put your flag in the ground.  Stop letting someone else always determine the terms of battle. Take the word back. It is a good word.  Its a beautiful word. Own it and put it to work.  Inclusion is a great word, but what is it that we are including?  You cannot have an informed conversation about inclusion if you are not able to talk about what diversity is.  Diversity means difference and it is one of the very few things that exists in every single interaction, exchange or relationship between two or more human beings.  Sounds to me like it is at the core of what a great deal of human resources work should actually be about.  Take the word back…it means a bunch of crazy stuff to people in your organization because you have let that happen.  Take it back.  If your organization does not have some clarity and consistency in their understanding of what the word means, that is on you.

“diversity is an issue because it is a moneymaker”

Do some people make some money doing diversity and inclusion work? Sure. Not a lot though. I certainly do not know a bunch of people clamoring to make the easy money that comes with diversity and inclusion work.  Are you effing kidding me?  Some people make money doing strategy work.  Some people make money doing culture work.  Some people make money doing engagement work.  Some people make money doing human resources work.  To say that a body of work exists simply because some people are profiting from it is to be incredibly confused about the difference between causation and correlation.  And it is overlooking a great deal of evidence to the contrary.  It is rare to find an organization that can get people from different departments to actually collaborate and share information with each other, and yet you are able to say that diversity is a made up issue, drummed up by consultants?

“when we do not have to talk about diversity and inclusion, that will be progress”

I am not sure why there is this idea, that there should be an endpoint on diversity and inclusion.  When are we expecting to stop “having to” talk about leadership? When are we expecting to stop “having to” talk about safety? When are we expecting to stop “having to” talk about communication?  When are we expecting to stop “having to” talk about people?  For some reason we think that we should only “have to” talk or think about diversity one time in our lives and then we are good.  More evidence that HR does not understand and / or has real disregard for this work.  Diversity will always, always, always be a part of the human condition.  And because of human nature it will always bring tension into social groups.

If we stop running away from it, hating on it, resenting it, misunderstanding it, feeling uncomfortable about it and talking shit about it, we might just be able to help our teams and organizations use that tension toward better outcomes.  Or we can continue to be a part of the problem.  We always have that choice.

Be good to each other.

  1. Andrew S. Dungan

    I had someone say to me, “We need to stop using the word diversity because it causes division.”
    I really had nothing to say. This person really thought they understood the meaning of diversity.
    Of course this was someone that used to be in the HR business.
    We have a ways to go Joe!
    You are right Joe. Few people understand this.
    Difference is a good thing.
    Embrace it.
    Cradle it.
    Love it.
    Keep spreading the good news!

  2. Eric Peterson

    Yes. This.

    “Your discomfort isn’t about the word, it’s about you.” Spot. On.

    Great seeing you in action this week. Looking forward to the next time.

  3. molly koenen

    seriously. i luv u. so funny…so true.

  4. What I’m Reading | Spark Consulting

    […] Diversity: shut up and do the work. […]

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