Organizations must dare to look beyond diversity and inclusion. Despite the substantial budgets, and the many courses and experts, the implementation of diversity and inclusivity within organizations leaves much to be desired. A new system that is more tailored around individuals and morals, ethics, and integrity can be an effective replacement for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).
When I state that diversity and inclusivity experts should disappear within organizations, I do not have any hidden motives of exclusion, bias, or any other form of racism behind that vision. Just that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) as we know it today remains stuck in a so-called ‘favorite child mode’, and that it has introduced many new problems. In practice, DEI sometimes appears to cause less justice, equality, and progress.
Still, I have to be extremely careful with what I say. Because before we know it, I will be canceled when I say that DEI is a game, designed to make people feel that progress and solutions have been worked on. Let’s leave politics out of it, and solely look at the developments in the business world. It then becomes clear that these often hinder the possibilities for pure forms of progression.
When DEI-representatives only elevate their own groups
Of course, there are also powerful developments due to DEI. With DEI, all sorts of people have been able to profile themselves properly. The DEI-representatives have urged them to show how proud they are of who they are. That they can be themselves at work. DEI has showed us what the possible blind spots are, and how to lead discussions about those. And yes, that DEI comes with many business gains, which is why it is worth pursuing. Sigh.
The reality, however, is that many DEI-representatives only elevate their ‘own groups’. I call that a ‘favorite child mode’. That with DEI, the leaders, who are all too often part of the problem, can demonstrate that they have given those groups what they have asked for. Yet, that it is still not good enough. That the very thing that they have required, has failed in what those DEI-champions have longed for.
Wide palette of voices falls by the wayside, and leaders do not really listen
With their DEI-activities, the leaders have strategically channeled the voices of individuals – sometimes out of prejudice. This has resulted in a demarcated position, or even a protest zone, by which an ‘us versus them mode’ has been cultivated. By which a wide palette of voices has partly been left out. Leaders have been taken off the hook to really listen. Likewise, by which leaders still do not have to work on intentional, systemic change – even now.
Nevertheless, DEI-representatives still try to keep strong and carry on with their work. However, in doing so, they go way too far on a regular basis, even towards tribalism. What makes this tribalism even more complex is that the leaders have placed the responsibility on DEI, not on the entire organization. The manifestations of that tribalism then provide the most functional piece of evidence that what goes wrong is DEI’s fault, not the others’.
DEI-policy in its current form encourages polarization
Current average DEI-policies lock us in time as a loophole. In its current form, DEI-policy encourages polarization. It keeps us in boxes and pits us against each other in a territorial fight. Instead of having all of us bear responsibility, and work on long-term healthy manners, which can be based on the intentions, attitude, and behavior of those involved. And yes, which can be supported by values, codes of conduct, and laws.
Because culture and mentality never act; people do. Thus, asking why people do what they do, and having conversations about what is right for everyone in terms of morals, ethics, and integrity ensures that we meet and understand each other at a much deeper level.
Identity is far too complex for caricatures
In other words, conversations on what it means for individuals to live a life with integrity, according to their own blueprint. Let’s not reduce people to a caricature of themselves, based on facets such as culture, age, education, life story, and so on. Because people’s identities remain complex and constantly subject to change.
Even a fairly simplistic, Socratic method to conduct moral deliberation within organizations appears to be more effective than DEI. Because moral deliberation can skip cultural projection, competition, discomfort, and arrogance. By asking sincere questions and thinking aloud deeply, freely, and critically, space is created for joint-examination, based on cultural humility.
Moral deliberation is often more effective and personal
Facets of individuals are given the necessary space to come to the surface, but are not overpowered. This results in a healthy balance that allows strengths and weaknesses, expertise and preferences of individuals to thrive in a state of optimal humanization of organizations. In other words, pure authenticity as a reflection of equality, and trust as a sign of justice. Besides, statistics and measurements have turned into an end in themselves. Those have nothing to do with the effective progress that everyone craves for.
Let organizations be open to everyone, provided that people are not on the spectrum of the dark triad– the dark triangle of narcissism, Machiavellianism, or psychopathy. For example, let’s not present the likability-factor as a cultural fit, when hiring. Too often, individuals are told that they do not fit the culture of an organization, while the decision makers simply prefer to hire others.
So, let’s stop misusing diversity and inclusivity for branding and business gains. Let’s work on it organically for human gain. Let’s stop the unnecessary ‘noise’ around purpose, mission, and values. Yes, those matters do have a place, but are not more important than the potential and innovative contributions of individuals, and the way in which those contributions are made. Let the next phase, the one after that of the limiting DEI, begin. A phase of finesse, civilization, and integrity.
The Dutch version of this article was published by EW Magazine.