<i>Dear Workforce</i> How Do I Overcome Resistance to New Diversity Initiatives
February 4, 2009
Dear Angling: You should expect challenges from those who don't see themselves as part of "diversity." This will happen if you cast diversity primarily in terms of race, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Instead, to prove that you're serious about workforce diversity, and not political correctness, include equal emphasis on a realistic variety of diversity dimensions, such as age, marital and parental status, education, personality type, communication style, the four previously mentioned dimensions, and others. Emphasize—and mean it—that everyone is part of the diverse workforce. There will be resistance if the amount of time devoted to training, education and other diversity interventions is seen as taking away from what some will refer to as "real work," especially if allowances aren't made for time away from the job. Telling someone he has to take a day to attend diversity training, but that there won't be any slack on that project deadline, is a good way to breed resentment toward the entire effort. The best defense against resistance to an examination of diversity is education, but not limited to the classroom variety. Leaders throughout the company, not just in HR, must help everyone in the workforce grasp this concept: If Company A has developed systems, procedures, policies and a culture that allows men and women from a variety of backgrounds to contribute productively, and Company B's systems, etc., seem to work only for certain types of people, Company A's going to perform better. Changing an organization to adapt to a more diverse workforce requires changing culture, systems, behaviors and more. This takes time. And it takes realistic expectations. Nothing converts skeptics like success. Demonstrating strong performance while building an organization that manages a diverse workforce helps convince the doubters and cynics that managing diversity, which we could simply call "managing reality," is a smart business strategy. SOURCE: Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette, co-authors, Contented Cows MOOve Faster, March 19, 2008. LEARN MORE: Learn how Denny's used diversity efforts to overcome an image of corporate racism. Also: a counterpoint suggesting that diversity programs don't measure up to the hullabaloo that surrounds them. The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.