20 Nov Why Some Leaders and Managers Resist Diversity Initiatives and What to Do About It
In many organizations, successful diversity initiatives are needed to ensure equal treatment for all employees and to help organizations understand how they fit in the broader community. However, a recurring obstacle towards equity tends to be managers and even senior leaders, key figures in implementing such initiatives, who often can’t seem to acknowledge the existence of issues within their organizations. This resistance obviously blocks the effective implementation of diversity initiatives, or any initiatives at all for that matter.
Many managers and leaders simply do not see that there’s a problem when confronted with gender-based pay disparities or other issues. It’s very difficult to truly understand someone else’s experience. The mind tells itself, “I’m fine, so everyone else must be as well.” Many leaders really believe that everyone in their organizations enjoys the same growth opportunities, experiences, and career paths. However, decades of research shows that the higher one looks at an org chart, the fewer women, and people of color. Even on the same levels of the chart, pay disparities between roles can be found.
There’s a reason they call it unconscious bias. People tend to hire and promote others who are like themselves. The consequences of this bias are huge. Managers and leaders consistently underestimate the extent of inequity issues within their organizations, which diminishes support for attempts to address or fix the problem.
When trying to overcome resistance towards diversity initiatives, recognize the first thing these leaders will do is default to the positive view of the organization (remember, they think everyone is fine). Encourage managers and leaders to rationally address specific instances of inequities. Avoid the blame game. Ask specifically about their reasoning when they write up performance reviews, or when they are making hiring or promotion recommendations.
In manager and leadership meetings, discuss your organization’s culture, as well as what they expect in terms of workplace behaviors and competencies. How do these align? Then ask them to reflect on what they don’t want, being mindful of potential bias and its potential impact on their workplace. This encourages managers to apply the same standards they use for other companies to their own organizations.
Consider manager training that addresses not just workplace bias, but training that also develops an understanding of how many different people all have their own unique strengths and teaches managers how to get the best of each individual through better communication, employee engagement, and collaboration.
As companies invest significant resources in their talent acquisition and retention initiatives, including diversity, acknowledging, and overcoming these psychological barriers is vital for fostering inclusive and equitable workplaces. Business Results specializes in manager training and executive coaching that helps organizations of all sizes. Contact us to learn how to help your people today!