A number of HR Directors have expressed their frustration to me regarding the implementation of an effective DEIB strategy in their companies.
They are completely convinced that such an approach is necessary, they’re committed to implementing DEIB in their companies, but they encounter reluctance around every corner, making it extremely difficult for them to deliver on their promise to transform the business.
One of the biggest causes of people resisting DEIB is that, for some reason or other, they’re afraid at a very deep level – afraid of losing their own identity, afraid of being expected to be someone else, do something they’re not comfortable with, and so on.
That fear is triggered by the reptilian – or so-called crocodile – brain each of us has. The crocodile brain is responsible for one thing only – our survival. It regulates our breathing, heartbeat, temperature and balance, as well as our fright, fight or flight responses. The problem is … it doesn’t think rationally (it leaves that to the neocortex), so no amount of information will change it.
There’s no point in giving them 101 reasons as to why DEIB is good for the company or berating them for not doing what’s necessary to embrace all. Their crocodile brain is not interested in anything else but their survival and it. Just. Won’t Hear. You.
Their fear has been triggered at a very deep level by past experiences in their lives which have in turn led to them developing certain beliefs about themselves and others who are supposedly different from them. This has then resulted in an irrational fear that determines how they act and react to attempts to get them to embrace DEIB.
They might be afraid of diversity in terms of cultural differences, racial differences, religious differences, gender differences and just about any kind of difference. Essentially, they’ve been raised and socialised to believe difference threatens their identity.
They however know that it is no longer socially acceptable to express their resistance to embracing diversity so they will remain silent, but their actions – or lack thereof in embracing DEIB – will speak volumes.
If you want to win them around, don’t judge them and don’t penalise them. Win them around by making them feel safe. That’s what will ease the fear in the crocodile brain, opening the way for them to start embracing DEIB.
Making them safe is, of course, easier said than done as every person requires something different to make them feel safe – what works for one won’t necessarily work for another person. You’re therefore not going to pull this off with a “quick fix” approach. You’re going to have to identify the key people who are necessary to roll out your DEIB strategy and ensure that they feel safe. Once you’ve got them on board, you move to the next level of employee, and so on.
The challenge for you, though, is to make it your business to understand the fear of each of the key people so that you can best address those fears.
It’s not a good idea to confront them with their fears. That will simply be counterproductive, making them even more resistant. Use your insight, intuition and expert judgement to identify what their fear is and then quietly set about addressing that fear in a way that makes them feel safe.
Making people feel mentally, emotionally and physically safe is a very powerful strategy with many benefits. Apart from dissolving their resistance to DEIB, it also enhances engagement, productivity and retention.
What’s not to like?
Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net and @HRFuturemag. He is an internationally recognised authority on leadership competencies for the future and teaches experienced and younger business leaders how to lead with empathy, compassion, integrity, purpose and agility. He has been an Age Management Coach for two decades and is the author of parenting best seller What nobody Tells a New Father.