It’s Okay to Feel Uncomfortable with Diversity and Inclusion

But You Still Need to Have Diversity and Inclusion Conversations

This is a fraught time of social and political change.  Leaders everywhere are wondering, should I be talking about what I think at work, or keeping my personal and professional worlds separate?

Gone are the days of personal lives being at home and professional lives being at work.  Many of work at home now, and will continue to do so beyond 2021.  It has never been more important to bring your full self to work – your full personal and professional self.

That requires candor and courage.  Leaning into uncomfortable conversations.  Saying something when something feels off.  Speaking up for others that may not feel heard.  Being there for people different than yourself.

The conversations in the virtual and live workplaces with clients and colleagues have gotten intense this year.  The fear of saying or doing the wrong thing has never been so great.  For those in the diversity and inclusion space, that means a potential backlash from positive traction on awareness with systemic racism and the need for equality.

Allies lean into these candid conversations.  They challenge the status quo and advocate for others that are different than themselves.  At Next Pivot Point, we have a three-step model for the candid conversation about diversity, equity, and inclusion that works at work.  Especially for the most challenging conversations about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

We call it the 3 D’s model.  It has three key steps:

  • Define: This involves setting the stage for the conversation.  It requires bravery and courage. People need to know why this is important – the business case, the human case, and personal reasons why this issue matters to you as a leader.  They need to know what diversity, equity, and inclusion means to the organization – is it more diverse talent, pay equity, and/or perceived equality of opportunities? Be clear up front what success looks like.
  • Discuss: Good conversations are two-way dialogues where all voices are heard.  To do this, ask open-ended questions like “what would our organization look like if our diversity, equity, and inclusion goals were met…” or “what are we missing out on by not maximizing the talents of all people…”
  • Decide: Do not forget this critical step.  After having the tough talk, make sure it is cemented with action.  Asking “what did we decide to do today?” or “what will you commit to doing as a result of this conversation?” promotes positive change.  Behavior change does not happen swiftly, it takes a series of candid conversations to drive cultural transformation.

This model also works one-on-one in a difficult conversation.  Perhaps you witness a microaggression where someone says something unhelpful, yet is not aware of how they were perceived.  You can say nothing and expect the person to continue that behavior, or you can practice comfort with discomfort, and have a candid conversation.

For difficult people or hard situations, consider this approach:

  • Define the situation with the individual.   Say, “when you said this, or when you did this, I noticed this…” or “in this situation, the perception was this…” to paint the picture of what happened especially if it has been some time since the situation occurred.
  • Discuss together how to be better next time. Ask, “help me understand why you said that?” or “what do you think?” to get to a better approach assuming there will be a next time.
  • Decide together what is next. Ask, “what would a better outcome look like next time? or “how can I support you?” to ensure you are in this together and the person does not feel shame or feel alone.

This is your chance to be an ally.  To be comfortable with discomfort.  Allies do hard work.  They stay in it when it gets hard.

Curious to learn more?

Check out my latest interviews with diversity, equity, and inclusion experts on the Next Pivot Point podcasttake our free team diversity and inclusion assessment, and schedule time with Julie to talk live about ideas.