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From a Job to a Joy: Tackling Workplace Culture to Drive Systemic Change

In too many places, the work of #diversity, #equity, #inclusion and #belonging is the "job" of a relatively small number of individuals in a team, unit, committee. Before it can be a "joy" for all (for, after all, inclusion and belonging should be joyful), workplace culture has to be confronted.

In the last few weeks, I have given a number of webinar sessions that have spoken to the importance of tackling #workplace #culture to drive systemic change efforts, particularly in regard to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (#DEIB). It seems that while many organizations and workplaces are in various stages of designing and implementing tailored #DEIB strategies, an exploration and analysis of their workplace culture is being ignored.

While speaking with stakeholders before and after a session and addressing questions from participants during the session, I am hearing a lot about the challenges of embedding #DEIB across functional units, horizontally and vertically across the organization and, perhaps most pertinently, moving the ownership of #DEIB efforts out of the specific Equity, Diversion and Inclusion Committees and/or beyond the office of the Chief (Diversity/Inclusion) Officer.

Putting aside cynical snickers that keeping these efforts sequestered, underfunded and tokenistic is intentional, I am going to presume that the work of #DEIB is in fact more challenging and requires more comprehensive engagement that needs to involve far more of an organization's people.

One way to get more people to participate and be part of the "job" that could eventually lead to "joy" of greater inclusion and belonging is for leaders to broach an assessment of their organization.

A great place to start is to look at the "iceberg model of organizational culture" that I have borrowed from The Future Institute, Australia.

As this image describes, using the metaphor of an iceberg, an organization's mission, purpose, values, goals, strategic objectives along with its stories and brand narratives, are the expressed elements of its culture. These are the elements that are published on its websites, highlighted in strategic plans, repeated in annual reports, and perhaps reinforced in its public-facing communications. Significantly, #DEIB is now strongly entrenched in these expressed elements floating on the surface.

But consider the submerged and hidden workplace cultural elements: from negativity and office politics, to personal values that might conflict and/or be fearful of the implications of #DEIB, to the 'old ways of doing things' that can at worst, sabotage, and at best, delay, the expressed missions, values and goals of #DEIB and other change efforts.

Indeed, leaders may be underestimating the strength and pull of these submerged elements. In terms of the #DEIB initiatives, efforts that don't include all members of the organization may leave some people feeling excluded, fearful, left out and dismissive or confused about the direction of the organization. This can be especially damaging if these people are in managerial roles and/or in the senior leadership.

Worse, if #DEIB is seen as "not my job," then there's less investment in the process. Moreover, if people feel that #DEIB is being imposed on them without seeing themselves as part of the process of #change and transformation, then the potential "joy" of inclusion and belonging, of a more productive, collaborative and innovative workplace culture, is left submerged in the ocean. How do we start toward finding that joy of an inclusive, collaborative and innovative workplace culture? It starts with expanding what we mean by #diversity. I'll say more about this in my next post!

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