Different language needed to beat diversity fatigue

by | Jul 26, 2018

How to conquer diversity fatigue

Diversity fatigue is on the rise. Will simplifying the language around it make a difference?

At 3Plus we are heavily involved in supporting organisations to achieve gender balance. At its core this means diverse and inclusive workplace cultures. One of the stats that is becoming obvious is the disconnect between what is what is being said and the tangible measurable results. Gender balance and diversity have become topics that are in danger of disappearing into a cloud of white noise. Diversity fatigue is rife. The needle is moving backwards in some cases, while women and other groups remain under represented in most sectors and geographies.

diversity fatigue

Diversity is a fact

One of the reasons could be that we are giving basic behaviours names that people can't relate to. Perhaps we need to drill down and just simplify the language and use every day words that have meaning to us as people.  What we are really talking about is respect, trust and open-mindedness.

If your workplace is diverse it can be measured. So why is it so complex to grasp? In everyday language, it's about being open-minded to new ways and approaches and changing the way we do things. If you ask any leader if they are open-minded he/she will almost certainly say yes. Have you ever heard anyone call themselves a closed-minded bigot? Exactly.

They might even say their organisation is diverse, when it clearly isn't or they don't know for sure, it's just their perception. But to get there, it means changing behaviour. This is what we struggle with.

Organisations may try to look for more diverse candidates but this can become about box ticking. It can be a pure numbers game if organisations don't adapt their processes at the same time. This produces additional problems if the composition of the workforce changes but the culture does not.

3Plus can help your company tackle underlying cultural issues which affect diversity in your workplace. Contact us NOW to learn more about our Unconscious bias training workshops.

Inclusion is a feeling

Inclusive workplaces are essentially about treating people with respect. If you ask leaders if they treat their employees and teams with respect they will once again say yes. In everyday language, inclusion would be called respect and civility.

It isn't just about looking for a wider and deeper pool of talent; it's also about making sure that both newcomers and existing employees thrive. There is no point hiring increased numbers of a targeted demographic if they are not properly included once hired.  Despite a commitment to creating respectful, tolerant and open-minded workplaces, employee engagement is low and toxic workplaces and bosses are on the rise. This suggests there is still a lot of work to be done to deal with bullying, sexism, harassment and other poor behaviours. They are so embedded in our corporate cultures that they have become normalised. Many have no idea their  own behaviour or that of their colleagues is uncivil. Incivility is one of the roots of toxic non-inclusive cultures.

Toxic behaviour can include:

  • Not giving recognition - the primary cause of burnout for men and women.
  • Favouring one group over another - this is about bias - conscious and unconscious.
  • Excessively long hours and exploitive workplace practises.
  • Incivility: poor time keeping, emoting, interrupting colleagues, talking over people, excluding and by passing colleagues, poor communication, rudeness (this means different things to different people especially cross culturally,) not giving people full attention.

The impact of this is reflected in absenteesim, mental health issues, careless mistakes, accidents, low productivity, burnout, reduced creativity and collaboration, all of which impact the bottom line.

The impact

  • The employee experience is at an all time low with 81% of employees reported to be open for a move.
  • This means that employee engagement and productivity is also low. Lack of engagement costs 1% of payroll (US).
  • Impact of incivility and bad behavior has increased by 13% since 1998 and costs trillions.
  • Impact on mental health is estimated by WHO to be $1 trillion.
  • Absenteeism from work in the EU is estimated at 2.5% of GDP across 27 member states, or 6% of working time.

Next steps

Set against what we see as diversity fatigue we also have to factor in wider cultural shifts. We are living in a climate where racism, sexism and homophobia seem to be increasing, very often connected to physical violence. It's hard for business leaders to promote inclusive and respectful workplaces when their employees are bringing their biases and prejudices into the office with them. But as we saw with Starbucks - they must. The impact on different brands of unchecked disrespect within their organisations is significant. Closing Starbucks for an afternoon cost an estimated €15m.

We have to make a decision to overcome diversity fatigue and stay resolute in our commitment to achieving change. It's important that our workplaces are secure and safe for employees emotionally, as well as physically. Everyone needs the opportunity to reach their potential. So instead of talking about inclusivity let's change the language and call it open-minded and respectful workplace cultures.

Make sure everyone is reaching their full potential and invest in a Mentoring Programme. 3Plus has an extensive range of female mentors with a wealth of experience.

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she joins the dots between organisations, individuals, opportunity and success.
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