Where to start.


My last post spoke to encouraging signs that there is some real energy building up around actually doing the work of making our workplaces and communities more inclusive. Not just lip service, not just a parade of good intentions, not just posters and pot-lucks.

We are not on the home stretch by any means. There is more diversity entering our workforces and our communities, but the work of inclusion lies before us. We have gotten better at hiring folks that look different, we have not done much to make it safer to actually be different, to think and act differently at work. Some companies are just now coming to the realization that while the words diversity and inclusion are often used interchangeably, they are in fact two different bodies of work.

Still lots of confusion around this set of issues.

Still plenty of folks who automatically equate any focus on diversity and inclusion with a lowering of standards (implicit bias anyone?)…and a great deal of it can be found among management and human resources professionals, the ones who are supposed to actually get the people stuff. Still those who bless us with the occasional missive on D&I (usually what’s wrong with D&I) prefaced with how edgy, or risky, or provocative it is for them to have something to say about D&I. Because they are white. Or a dude. Or a white dude. Get it? Me neither. Still plenty of folks who only really have something to say about “reverse” discrimination (as opposed to the forward kind?), or the great threat of political correctness run amok…now, those are The Real Problems. Still far too easy to find ridiculously lazy articles about how “diversity training actually makes things worse,” referencing research that actually shows that poorly designed and/or delivered training does not really work very well, regardless of the topic…but “diversity training actually makes things worse,” is a much more satisfying title.

Lots of confusion.

Organizational inclusion is very much a body of work in its infancy, so this is maybe par for the course, but I think that our biggest opportunity to push this work forward lies in providing clear and concise language and logic relative to diversity and inclusion.

Clarity solves much.

And this is where we must start.

It is not fun or exciting work, but if we are going to put a tangible, actionable model of inclusion in place (and that is exactly what we are going to do), we must first build a foundation of clear, concise and consistent language. The word “diversity” for example gets used in a lot of interesting ways and clearly means a bunch of different things to different people. Inclusion continues to be a vague, abstract idea involving some notion of respect (itself a fairly vague notion).

This lack of clarity is a big part of why leaders and organizations struggle to know what to do and usually just fall back on whatever is considered a best practice by someone somewhere because Google or Zappos does it. This is also why folks are so confused regarding “what are the metrics?” Until something is clearly defined it is hard to know what to do about it and hard to know what to measure.

Clear, concise definitions make both much easier.

Until 10 random stakeholders of your organization can answer questions regarding what diversity and inclusion mean and why they matter to your organization in fairly clear and consistent ways, you have a clarity problem. Do you have a clarity problem? Based on my experience, it is highly likely that you do.

And this is where we must start.

Be good to each other.

  1. About this word “Diversity.” - joe gerstandt

    […] have been writing about moving diversity and inclusion work forward and the foundational significance of language. […]

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