Diversity, Inclusion and Social Impact

 There is a LOT of debate about the value of diversity and inclusion initiatives these days.  I am a big fan of diversity and inclusion. I view D&I as both a moral and a pragmatic good. I just don't see how anyone can solve problems effectively without an inclusive process. The reality is, we don't know what we don't know and getting input from others improves our problem solving process.


As a professional, I teach how to create inclusive workplace cultures by eliminating bullying and harassment. I teach a combination of humanistic philosophy combined with behavioral science. 

I understand some people have soured on the idea of diversity because they've been subjected to crappy diversity training that doesn't work. And there is plenty of evidence that says, our current approach to diversity training, doesn't work.  The fact our current approaches don't seem to be working, doesn't mean we should give up. Diversity is both a moral good and a pragmatic one.

So, how do we accomplish this?   Well, I'm glad you asked.  I was recently named an Expert for Social Impact.  They interviewed me about my work and my approach and - gave me an opportunity to opine on the question: If you could change one thing in terms of DEI, what would that be? 

My interview is here: https://diversity.social/jennifer-hancock-humanist-learning-diversity-florida/ 

While I encourage you to read the whole article - because it will tell you more about me and my work - and maybe convince you and your company to hire me, I do want to include my answer to this question here:

If you could change one thing in terms of DEI, what would that be? 

Hoo boy. Ok – here it is. There is a flawed assumption that underpins all diversity and harassment training. And that assumption is – if we just tell them it’s wrong, they will stop.

Harassment training is basically two hours of – it’s illegal – don’t do it. The same thing happens with diversity training. Here’s how historically this has hurt people, we need to change. Never, in the entire history of humanity, has asking bullies nicely to stop, ever worked. Never. Not once.  Bullies bully because it works. In order to make them stop, we have to make it stop working. Changing hearts is important, changing behaviors is even more so.

In order to make bullying stop, we have to learn how the behavior is rewarded and consciously change the rewards and responses to their behavior to trigger behavioral extinction.  

Often, this requires a complete rethinking of the systems we operate in. When I teach people here is how behaviors are reinforced and what is required to make them stop, only then can I help them look at the individual elements of the system and discuss how each element either serves to reinforce the unwanted behavior, or whether it helps to extinguish the unwanted behavior. Having learned this, we can now discuss how to tweak the system to create effective change.

A few years back I gave a talk about how to create happier more inclusive workplaces in India. One of the executives asked me about whether this works for a specific situation in their company. But he was framing the problem in an ineffective way. I kept telling him – nope. You have it upside down. What you are suggesting won’t work because your entire framework on how you think about this is upside down. You are concerned about outputs when you should be concerned about inputs and how your structure and systems is responding and rewarding the inputs.

Whether we are talking about how schools deal with bullying or whether we are talking about how government agencies respond to harassment in the workplace, the problem is the same. The reason we haven’t been able to extinguish the unwanted behavior is because the system itself is rewarding those behaviors. This is ALL fixable. But we have to take a systems approach to the problem and to do that effectively, we have to educate ourselves on the science of how behaviors are learned and more importantly unlearned so that we can start addressing the systemic nature of the problems.


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