Diversity Makes Inclusion Harder, But Here’s What To Do About It

Diversity Makes Inclusion Harder, But Here’s What To Do About It

Good-faith attempts to champion diversity often backfire for a pretty intuitive reason: The more an organization points out the differences among employees–even in order to celebrate them–the more likely it is that some employees will feel less included, and behave accordingly. The fact is, our brains have been fine-tuned over eons to become amazingly efficient at noticing differences. It’s not just gender or ethnicity, either. Out-groups form even when people are asked to wear red or blue T-shirts.

Couple that sensitivity to difference with the human need for fairness, and you may also get dominant groups feeling neglected. Such is the argument some white men in Silicon Valley are making–that diversity efforts amount to discrimination. Indeed, when we asked over 200 diversity and inclusion (D&I) professionals at a recent event about their biggest worry over the next five years, the top answer was backlash against their efforts.

Related: Diversity Efforts’ Top 3 Mistakes That Are Slowing Down Progress

Diversity makes inclusion harder; it’s easy to welcome different perspectives when the people sharing them are all mostly the same age, gender, went to the same schools, and crack the same jokes. But when people of truly diverse backgrounds are thrust together, it gets a lot harder. The real challenge, when it comes to building work cultures that are both diverse and inclusive, is to leave ample room for difference while still thinking like–and identifying as– one big in-group.


Diversity efforts don’t always account for the long-established psychological tendency toward “out-grouping” and its frequently unproductive consequences.

A 2015 review in Social and Personality Psychology Compass found that efforts to celebrate differences can lead non-dominant members feeling uncomfortably aware of their group identities. What’s more, that can also leave them feeling like positive group attributes are being imposed on them, leading to a sense that they’re actually being miscategorized or “just don’t fit.” In experiments conducted in both simulated and actual work environments, some multicultural efforts led to perceptions of exclusion in dominant-group members. The important exception: if inclusion efforts were framed as benefitting and addressing everybody, resistance was reduced.

In other words, organizations may want to consider flipping the way they think about inclusivity. In our research covering 42 of our client organizations across seven countries, just 43% of D&I programs described by interviewees were universally offered to everyone, and just 19% of companies intentionally included white males in conversations about diversity and inclusion. That’s a mistake. Rather than focusing just or mainly on giving diverse team members extra visibility that risks fracturing the overall team, leadership and staff should strive to unite people. They should highlight similarities and remind team members that there is no “us” versus “them”–only one big “us,” no matter what our differences might be.

This isn’t just semantics, and it’s not about minimizing diversity.  It’s emphasizing universally inclusive practices, like parental leave offered regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Same goes with flexible work arrangements, which serve people in many different ways when they’re made available to everyone: They can reduce headaches for parents, caregivers, those with mobility challenges, and mega-commuters alike. These “for-everyone” policies don’t efface differences, they support them.

Related: This Simple Chart Will Get You To Rethink Your Diversity Program


Inclusive programs, framed in ways that promote an organization’s values and benefit everyone, can be considered “superordinate goals” that unify people across group divisions. These goals are higher-order missions shared by multiple people, with rewards bestowed on everyone involved. (Science fiction frequently employs a big, scary superordinate goal as a narrative device: the aliens come to earth, and humanity suddenly gets along.) Superordinate goals support inclusion efforts because they get people thinking in terms of others’ skills and value–not their appearance, beliefs, or status.

We’re not saying that all employee resource groups should be banned, or that programs that benefit a single group should be done away with. There are times when institutional asymmetry–much like structural inequality in the broader society–has to be addressed head-on. When people are being paid less based on gender, when a certain demographic is being hired in paltry numbers, and when promotions only go to those who fit a certain mold, there’s no substitute for direct action.

Nevertheless, we counsel our clients to understand the detrimental side effects that may follow those same, totally necessary actions. Every leader needs to be able to make important trade-offs, but charging ahead with difference-focused initiatives without understanding the risks involved won’t help an organization move in the right direction.

As we’ve studied organizations that are relatively more mature in their D&I efforts than others, one thing we’ve found is that difference-focused initiatives are more necessary in less mature cultures–the ones featuring large disparities between those in dominant and non-dominant groups. But the more diverse and inclusive a culture becomes, the more those gaps fade; before long, there aren’t seriously underrepresented groups in the organization anymore. And whenever other disparities are uncovered, they can be addressed in more targeted ways.

If you can create one large in-group, you can mitigate the risk of stereotyping and other biases. Everybody feels like they’re on the same team. And crucially, diversity and inclusion can truly reinforce one another.

A Simple Strategy to Build Inclusion in Diverse Teams

A Simple Strategy to Build Inclusion in Diverse Teams

Research knows that diverse teams are smarter than more homogenous teams. The friction of differing sets of experiences, ideas, and philosophies may feel uncomfortable in the moment. But chances are, it will lead to more creative, innovative outcomes.

But that presents a new challenge for leaders: helping people feel like they fit in. After all, we know inclusion doesn’t just mean having a seat at the table; rather, having a voice at that table. So it rests with leaders to help everyone feel like they can meaningfully contribute.

One way to do that, research suggests, is by practicing what psychologists call in-grouping.

The science of in-groups

Humans are a social species. As such, we’re highly sensitive to our place in the larger social circle. We notice when we gain status or power over others, and we notice when we get pushed to the fringes. In organizational settings, this sense of rejection can often lead to negative feelings and general disengagement from work.

Leaders may actually create these feelings unintentionally with calls for employees to “bring their whole selves to work.” Or they may create employee resource groups that inadvertently fracture the office more than they unite everyone.

As we wrote for Fast Company in 2018, leaders should consider flipping the way they think about inclusivity. Instead of making room for small bundles of people to organize, leaders should unite everyone around shared organizational goals.

“They should highlight similarities,” we wrote, “and remind team members that there is no ‘us’ versus ‘them’ – only one big ‘us,’ no matter what our differences might be.”

Why in-groups work

Psychologically, this strategy has the benefit of creating superordinate goals. These are the goals that multiple people share as a common objective, which studies have shown do a tremendous job uniting even the most diverse team members.

In setting these goals, leaders essentially work to build tight-knit in-groups, but instead of finding common ground in their ideologies, backgrounds, and beliefs, employees can find motivation from the shared success of achieving something larger, together.

The Fast Company article, “Diversity Makes Inclusion Harder, But Here’s What to Do About It,” was featured in the recent NLI white paper “NLI Perspectives: Cultures of Inclusion.”

Download the NLI white paper, “NLI Perspectives: Cultures of Inclusion”

How Your Habits Determine Your Chances Of Success

How Your Habits Determine Your Chances Of Success

“Most of us can clearly understand that good habits are better than bad habits and yet there is still a clear gap between intention-to-act and action.”

We live in a time where people are preparing for life on Mars and are actively engaging with robots in the workplace. Yet, when we consider new habits and self-mastery, it doesn’t seem that we have conquered that frontier yet. The self-help book industry alone in 2008 was valued at $11 billion. Even though we have goals or intention-plans to achieve these goals, some studies prove that having an intention to act and actually acting is only correlated by 28% in actual behaviour change.

The intention/acting gap

Most of us can clearly understand that good habits are better than bad habits and yet there is still a clear gap between intention-to-act and action.

There are a number of techniques for new habit formation that focus on setting, context, barriers to action, social influence, emotion and purpose but these should be unpacked on a case by case basis and do not always provide a wide spread approach that many people can make use of. However, breakthroughs in our understanding of how we actively form new habits in the brain have assisted in the development of new behaviour and habits that last.

To understand these we first need to understand the dynamics of a habit.

Related: 10 Powerful Habits That Will Make You a Millionaire

The science behind habits

A habit is an automatic behavioural pattern in response to a cue. It’s the result of repeating a behaviour in the same context again and again. It happens when we buckle up our seat belts when we get in a car, jump onto Facebook when we are feeling bored, or remember to take a notebook with to a meeting.

Repetition strengthens the connection in the brain between a cue and the associated behaviour. With enough repetition our habits move from being initially conscious behaviour to unconscious habit. A recent study proved that it takes 66 days on average to form a new habit and that some people can take up to 250 days to form the same habit.

The secret is that repetition is key. How we move from new behaviour to habit can be likened to learning to drive a car. When driving for the first time we felt very conscious about what we were doing and constantly remembered to put the gear stick into second gear when we moved through a corner. Yet, over time and with repetition, we can’t even consciously remember shifting gears after we have driven somewhere on the same day.

The brain loves to hardwire thinking, but it has limited capacity to do so. We can only manage to change one habit at a time. This is why we can talk on the phone and drive once we have mastered driving a car  (assuming that you are using a hands-free device of course), but not when we were first learning to do so.

Small steps, big rewards

Often, we expect big changes in our behaviour and set challenging goals: Lose 38kgs, wake up at 5am, make R10 million in the first year of business. The reality is that change and the formation of new habits is small and requires incremental repeated steps to take hold. When we have a lofty goal we often get disheartened when we don’t see significant progress towards that goal. This limits our desire to repeat the behaviour that is required by the brain to create new habits.

So, what’s the solution? We need to chunk our goals into smaller habits that can be achieved easily and habitually. When we achieve goals the brain releases dopamine, the feel-good hormone, and adrenaline, the energy hormone.

This creates an upward spiral where we feel motivated and have the energy to achieve more. So, instead of working towards a R10 million target, break down that goal into a piece of lead-generating activity a day. This achievement of smaller incremental goals will create a synergy of dopamine and adrenaline in the brain associated with the behaviour that will enable us to ride this wave in a positive upward spiral of repetition over time.

Related: 8 Habits Of Highly Successful Leaders

“If-Then” plans and how to use them

Behavioural scientists suggest that we need to create a routine that weaves our new desired behaviour into our daily lives to increase repetition so that it may one day become a default response and thus a habit.

This requires routine, consistency, a reminder to do so and most importantly, what some scientists call, an If-Then plan. This is a cue in our mind to behave in a certain way when a situation presents itself. This is aided by stacking new desired behaviours into existing habits.

For example, we could create an If-Then plan to go to gym after working by making sure that once we get home after work and get changed out of our work clothes (If), we get dressed into our gym clothes (Then).

This creates an achievable and easily repeatable behaviour (getting ready for gym) that enables us to create a positive upward spiral (releasing dopamine and adrenaline) to fulfil a larger, more important, goal (improved overall health).

Once we can create this loose connection in the brain between desired activity (Then) and situational cue (If), this associated behaviour becomes easily accessible in the brain and therefore easier to recall.

Once we have recalled it enough it is hardwired and becomes a new habit, moving from the conscious to unconscious.

Pulling it al together

What goals are you currently working on that you can break down into smaller goals to create a positive upward spiral? How can you create If-Then plans or mental cues to make sure that your desired behaviour is easy to recall and act upon based on cues in your day-to-day environment? Start small, but start — that’s how you form the habits that will ultimately lead you down a path of success.

How to Gracefully Exclude Coworkers from Meetings, Emails, and Projects

How to Gracefully Exclude Coworkers from Meetings, Emails, and Projects

You and about 20 of your coworkers are sitting around a crowded conference room table, discussing the details of some project. Some people are fighting for attention, trying to get a word in. Others won’t stop talking. Others have tuned the meeting out, retreating to their laptops or phones. At the end of the meeting, the only real outcome is the decision to schedule a follow-up meeting with a smaller group — a group that can actually make some decisions and execute on them.

Why does this happen? People hate to be excluded, so meeting organizers often invite anyone who might need to be involved to avoid hurt feelings. But the result is that most of the people in the meeting are just wasting time; some may literally not know why they’re there.

Whether it’s a meeting, an email thread, or a project team, people need to be excluded from time to time. Being selective frees people up to join more urgent engagements, get creative work done, and stay focused on their most important tasks. How, then, can leaders do this gracefully?

We recommend three steps.

Focus on key employees to protect them from overload. Most leaders try to pare down a meeting list or an email thread by looking for employees who clearly don’t need to be on it. But we suggest the opposite approach. Who is the valuable, collaborative employee you are most tempted to include? Now ask yourself: is she really necessary?

We pose this question because one of the foundational concepts to thoughtful exclusion is known as collaborative overload. The term was coined in a 2016 HBR cover story from leadership and psychology professors Rob Cross, Reb Rebele, and Adam Grant. Drawing on original research, they claimed that up to a third of collaborative efforts at work tend to come from just 3% to 5% of employees. These employees are often massively over-burdened and, in turn, at risk for burning out.

If the same small group of people get invited to every task force, every special project, every brainstorming meeting, there’s no way they can keep up with more valuable tasks. That’s why the first step to thoughtfully excluding people is to spot those employees at the greatest risk for collaborative overload, and then be incredibly selective about when to include them in meetings or other projects.

Address people’s natural social needs. The acts of excluding and being excluded are intensely emotional, even when people know they’re invited to too many meetings and resent getting too much email.

That’s because humans are social creatures; we naturally want to help those whom we consider close to us. The employees who suffer from collaborative overload take on such heavy burdens in part because they are compelled by these ancient impulses. It’s the same reason leaders over-include: They want others to feel like they belong.

The kind of exclusion that doesn’t trigger backlash or stymie productivity must address people’s varying social needs. If we look at who suffers from collaborative overload the most, we end up with two groups: employees who are too busy to be included in everything and employees who believe being over-included is a sign of prestige and status.

It’s up to leaders, therefore, to identify both groups and show them their time is better spent on projects with the highest return. Sample language might be variations on:

  1. “I know you’ve got a lot of important work on your agenda, and I’d like to keep you off of this upcoming project so that you can focus on what you’ve already got. What do you think?”
  2. “I’d like to take you off of this project, because someone else has a similar point of view. At the same time, you’d be able to add a ton of value to this other project because you bring a unique perspective. Would you be open to that?”
  3. “I noticed that a couple of deadlines have slipped recently and that’s pretty unusual for you. Are there meetings, projects, or other things on your calendar that are consuming time or energy, that we might be able to reallocate? We all have times where we need some breathing room. How can I help?”

When leaders approach exclusion with employees’ social brains in mind, they can be more thoughtful in how they frame their directive.

Set clear expectations. Exclusion only hurts when people expect to be included.

The neuroscience of expectations shows there’s a great cost to mismatched expectations. When the anterior cingulate cortex, a brain region heavily involved in expectation matching and processing social exclusion, detects an error, it kickstarts a process that drains huge amounts of cognitive energy. This happens every time we encounter something unexpected, like seeing a favorite restaurant closed or getting disinvited to a meeting we’d normally join. That’s because the brain wants to make sense of the situation; it expected one thing and got another. Leaders eager to get the most out of their team members, by redirecting their efforts to more valuable activities, must understand and appreciate this aspect of the brain’s behavior.

If you only need a small subset of people attending a meeting, communicate with the rest of the group to ensure each person understands why they are not needed. Laying this groundwork also helps mitigate what psychologists call “social threat.” Just as loud noises and scary images can feel physically threatening, humans are wired to avoid threats in social situations, whether it’s anxiety, uncertainty, or isolation.

Managing people’s expectations ahead of time can act as a buffer against people feeling these kinds of social threats. For instance, the brain craves certainty, and being explicit about meeting participants’ roles offers it. Most of us also crave fairness, which you can provide by being transparent about the reasons for someone’s exclusion. That way, people can be excluded without the sting of feeling excluded.

Thoughtful exclusion in action

Leaders are responsible for appreciating these fundamental, albeit fragile, nuances of perception. When the time comes to launch a new project or host a big meeting, they should make it perfectly clear who needs to be involved, who doesn’t, and the reasons why. This way, employees will better understand how their role fits into the team’s larger mission, and with knowledge of other people’s roles, they’ll know who is working on what.

Think back to that chaotic meeting with 20 people. Thoughtful exclusion pares down that meeting to a core team of six or seven. Since the project manager now thinks hard about whose skills and time are most valuable — and whose would be better served elsewhere — she graciously decides you (and a dozen other people) have more important things to work on. As a result, the project reaches the finish line earlier and those employees who were excluded make greater progress on their own work.

Scale that behavior throughout an organization, and you have more people making better use of their time, tackling projects where their contributions are known, not assumed, to add value.

Exclusion may earn a bad rap in a climate where leaders are admirably sensitive about others’ sense of belonging. And it’s important to remember that thoughtful exclusion is only possible with an appreciation of the benefits of diverse perspectives and inclusive decision-making. But in order to avoid the dreaded logjam of over-inclusion, the brain science makes it clear that, with the right approach, thoughtfully leaving people out could become one of the greatest managerial moves a leader makes.

10 Skills You’ll Need to Survive the Rise of Automation

10 Skills You’ll Need to Survive the Rise of Automation

Automation is coming to the workplace.

Millions of jobs will be destroyed, but many jobs will also be simultaneously created in the process as well.

For those in the workforce – or for those just joining it for the first time – the big question is: what skills are needed to navigate this monumental shift in the economy? How will humans create value in an increasingly automated world?

Original article: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/07/the-skills-needed-to-survive-the-robot-invasion-of-the-workplace

Creating a Growth Culture

Creating a Growth Culture

A culture is simply the collection of beliefs on which people build their behavior. Learning organizations — Peter Senge’s term — classically focus on intellectually oriented issues such as knowledge and expertise. That’s plainly critical, but a true growth culture also focuses on deeper issues connected to how people feel, and how they behave as a result. In a growth culture, people build their capacity to see through blind spots; acknowledge insecurities and shortcomings rather than unconsciously acting them out; and spend less energy defending their personal value so they have more energy available to create external value. How people feel — and make other people feel — becomes as important as how much they know.

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE: https://hbr.org/2018/03/create-a-growth-culture-not-a-performance-obsessed-one