The Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) industry was launched with high hopes decades ago. The original goal was to make the workplace a welcoming and safe environment for all employees. This way, they would bring their full selves to work, thereby improving productivity and performance of the organization. Return on investment would rise. It seems in the noble goal to make some feel more welcoming, others feel less so.
Maryanne Gonzales was raised in a strict Catholic home. She is a research analyst for a major firm in Las Vegas. She said, “Often my friends and co-workers would use bad language. At first, I would tell them to please not swear around me. Now it has become a standing joke almost. They will slip and then yell across the office, ‘sorry Maryanne didn’t mean to offend you.’” “It’s micro-aggressions like that, that keep employees from fully engaging at work,” said Mike Sullivan, ex- D&I consultant and now specializes in feng shui. “D&I has fallen into a trap of looking through a narrow lens of race and gender.”
Martha Brickwater, 56-year-old Clinical Psychologist for a behavioral health system in Kansas City said, “I have 30 years of experience dealing with all sorts of addictive personalities. I see patients come in with issues I have dealt with time and time again. The younger clinicians all hang together, go to happy hour and talk about the latest treatment trends. We have had several workshops on diversity but it’s never about diverse experience and perspectives. They view me as the office dinosaur. I come in, do my work and leave.”
Jerome Walker, military brat and now electrical engineer for a construction company in New Jersey said, “I consider myself more conservative than most in the office. I was told recently I had to take the American flag off of my backpack because it offended someone. They make Trump jokes all the time. When I try to engage, they tell me to quit watching Fox News. I see no openness or respect for my perspective. It’s like a religion with them, any deviation from their POV is not tolerated.” Mr. Sullivan added, “Until D&I gets back to their original goal of improving overall organizational engagement and effectiveness, they will see limited results. Platitudes and ratios are not helpful, empirical research would be. They may feel good about it but if not careful, D&I will go the way of the trust fall.”
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