Yesterday I came across a question on Twitter that caught my immediate attention. In connection with the resignation of Siemens’ Diversity Manager, Jill Lee, @SonjaApp asked: “Why do Diversity Manager give up so often?” I had read (and posted) an article entitled “Männlich. Farblos. Deutsch” (transl.: “Male. Colorless. German.”) on Ms. Lee’s resignation a few days before in Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung. Her story is one of many that (unfortunately) seem all-too-familiar.
Inspired by Ms. App’s question, I made a spontaneous list of the Top 10 reasons why some Diversity Managers throw in the towel, and why some entire Diversity Management initiatives see themselves carried to an early grave:
10. The Diversity Management initiative was designed to control something it has no control over – namely: the way people think – instead of concentrating on what it does have the power to influence namely: the way people act.
9. Expectations on employee behavior and how they interact with one another aren’t communicated in a clear, pragmatic and situative fashion. Instead of experiencing a dynamic sense of community, employee groups experience a stilted sense of estrangement from one another.
8. There are no real consequences for actions that undermine the Diversity Management initiative. Therefore, employees on both sides of the spectrum – those who disregard the process, as well as those who look to the it for support – don’t take the process seriously.
7. Important tasks that impact the implementation of Diversity Management are entrusted to employees who either don’t understand – or simply don’t support – Diversity Management. Successful Diversity Management isn’t really important to these people and they may even (subconsciously) want it to fail.
6. There are no clearly defined objectives that are directly linked to the corporate mission. This make Diversity Management seem like a “feel good” project or an initiative to help the “under-privileged”. In other words, precisely the kind of project that can quickly be pushed to a back burner – or discontinued completely – when the collective attention is drawn in another direction.
5. The organization doesn’t experience a true renewal via Diversity Management. Instead of successfully integrating and weighting important impulses and innovations made by new segments of the workforce, assimilation to the traditional mainstream culture remains the only really valid benchmark for belonging – and success.
4. Diversity Management is defined in such a way that mainstream staff experience it as a bonus system for “the others” instead of an enrichment for the entire company. They have the feeling this bonus is being given at their expense, and therefore aren’t as open or cooperative as they need to be to effectively support the process.
3. Internal resistance to Diversity Management initiatives isn’t regarded as an integral – and natural! – part of the process. Therefore neither senior management nor the staff has not developed strategies to effectively deal with the frustration and tension this resistance will cause. Instead resistance is interpreted as a sign the process isn’t working.
2. Diversity Managers aren’t given the competencies they need to really make a (long-term) change. They feel like – and are perceived to be – “paper tigers”.
1. Diversity Management isn’t perceived and experienced as a true priority of senior management. Therefore Diversity Management is seen as an appendage instead of as a fundamental element of the corporate identity or the corporate vision.