Diversity Fatigue and the Need for Diversity Intelligence
Managers can suffer from diversity fatigue because they need diversity intelligence (DQ). Diversity was introduced into the American workplace by White males who felt left out because of Affirmative Action’s focus on White females and to a lesser extent minority employees. Diversity has come to mean a plethora of things to the extent that many managers struggle to keep up with the definitions.
DQ frames the definition of diversity within the history of racism and the context of the workplace. Within the context of the workplace, the federal definition of protected class is used to define diversity. Managers must also understand how history has influenced hiring practices, retention of workers, productivity of said workers, and organization profitability. The work environment context is important because workers become a product of their environment, and managers control the environment at work.
Managers are tasked with optimizing talent to achieve workplace goals. This means that all workers must contribute to the organization’s success. Protected class employees are no exception. The categories of protected class include race, color, gender, national origin, religion, age, disability, and veteran status. Some employees are protected by one class and some are protected by several of the class statuses. There are very few employees who do not fall into any of the categories; yet, there is often opposition to diversity efforts in the workplace. Not all managers are aware of all the protected class statuses of their employees. Besides race and color, other class status is not readily visible and employees are not required to disclose their status. This makes it imperative that managers treat all employees with dignity, respect, and fairness.
Diversity efforts have in the past focused on awareness and inclusion and is evolving towards equity. DQ is designed to speed up this process by integrating it alongside intellectual intelligence (IQ), cultural intelligence (CQ), and emotional intelligence (EQ) during management development training. When DQ is included manager behavior should change and/or improve to reflect a better understanding of diversity, equity, and diversity leadership capability. Follower well-being may also improve because they may be protected from discrimination, less likely to leave the organization because of discrimination, show improved job productivity, and increased motivation.
The success of diversity efforts is everyone’s responsibility. All managers must work together to reduce diversity fatigue and enhance DQ. Awareness of diversity rarely makes it to application in ways that prevent discrimination in the workplace. Inclusion also has limitations because even though an employee may be hired, retention becomes a problem because of maltreatment and marginalization. Protected class employees are seeking equity. DQ takes managers beyond awareness and inclusion and offers a new way of thinking about equity and the value of diversity in the workplace. DQ promotes operational growth by valuing the contributions of all employees.
DQ advances current diversity training efforts to include better familiarity with protected class employees. Sexual harassment, religion, and race are often the focus of diversity efforts in the workplace; yet, these problems are often suppressed as is evident by the #MeToo movement, class-action settlements for race and religious discrimination. DQ seeks to reduce toxic and hostile work environments that lead to high attrition, unrealized productivity, feelings of frustration, fear, disappointment, resentment, and other adverse responses from protected class employees. With DQ managers will be able to integrate employees with all skill levels into the workplace.
Claretha Hughes is Professor at the University of Arkansas, USA. Her book Valuing People and Technology in the Workplace won the R. Wayne Pace Book of the Year award in 2012.