How to: Diversity

I teach humanist management and how to use behavioral science to stop things like harassment. Both are at play when we are dealing with diversity issues.  I was recently asked about ways leaders can foster diversity and help teams adjust to change.

First question: Ways for a leader to foster diversity, inclusion, and acceptance within their unit/department/organization. 

Leaders and teams need a variety of inter-related skills to help ensure diversity is achieved.

1. Understanding the value that diversity brings to the team (which is better problem solving)  REALLY  - BETTER PROBLEM SOLVING!!!!!
2. Philosophic understand of how to cope and change their thinking about other people so that they don’t respond negatively – or if they do – they can work through it.
3. Mission focused and intentional integration of viewpoints.  As long as the team is focused on collaborative problem solving, issues with disagreements can be resolved rationally and not devolve into tribal conflicts which then use harassment and bullying to socially exclude a rival idea.
4. Behavior based approaches to bullying and harassment that actually fix the problem. It isn’t enough to say – it’s illegal – don’t do it. It’s not enough to give people culture sensitivity trainings. Aggressive behavior happens and it’s used to socially exclude people to gain power over a group and to control a group. That a) kills diversity as the diverse viewpoints are targeted. And b) it leads to incredibly bad decisions being made.  To fix this – requires a behavioral understanding of how to get unwanted behaviors to stop and how to reward the pro-social behaviors you do want and most importantly – how to handle the  people who resist!!!!!!

Which is why the 2nd question is so important:

2. How to add diversity to a homogeneous team that is also resistant to change.

First – everyone is resistant to change. Even people who want to change resist change. We can’t help it. Resistance is instinctual.  It’s not a sign of people not wanting to change. It’s just – the process people go through to change.  The point is – to help people with change – you have to understand the behavioral dynamic playing out – that is causing the resistance and how to help the team move through the change process quickly and how to identity those most resistant and isolate their – freak out – so it doesn’t impact the rest of the team.   I said this last bit in lay language. In science language – it means – understanding that when you stop rewarding an old behavior – the behavior escalates as the organism tries to get their reward back. As they continue to not get their reward – their resistance escalates until their behavior – explodes – which is called an extinction burst – or blow out. This is predicted to occur. How bad it gets is the variable. Most people – it’s not too bad. Some people – it’s really really really bad.  A cultural change process – to be effective – is going to take all this science based knowledge into account and help the not bad people adjust quickly and identify the really truly resistant so that the really truly resistant aren’t allowed to prevent the rest of the team from making progress.   And again, this is not about value judgements – it’s just – the process that plays out – every. Time. You. Change. Something.

The major way that people resist diversity is through harassment and bullying. So – that’s where pro-active effort has to be taken – to protect those who are going to be targeted are protected and nurtured so they a) stay and so that b) the resistance to their presence is unsuccessful.   Yes – this takes effort. Pro-active effort. Conscientious effort. Time and effort. Which is why – most leaders – even well-meaning leaders – fail.

For those truly dedicated to the project – it can be done – but to give yourself the best chance at succeeding – you need to get training on behavioral modification techniques as they apply to organizational dynamics – paying special attention to how behavioral unlearning manifests in bullying and harassment situations.

And yes – I have training on all of this.

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