What is there to fear about DEI? And why we're so afraid.
In embarking on the work of building more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organizations, one common barrier is fear. Fear comes from the unknown. When organizations have not clearly defined their terms, metrics, and objectives, fear can undermine the best-intentioned initiatives.
At Teamer Strategy Group, we identify five fears that most often interrupt diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
“I don’t know enough to talk about this topic.”
Oftentimes individuals fear they are not equipped to have knowledgeable and informed conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Individuals may fear offending others by saying the wrong thing or that they will be misunderstood.
“I will feel bad about my identity.”
Individuals may fear that diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts do not include them or that they may be made to feel bad because of one or more identities they hold. They may fear being held responsible for a part their ancestors might have played in contributing to or benefitting from inequitable systems.
“My relationships will be at risk.”
Often individuals may fear that speaking out in favor of DEI initiatives will create a risk to their promotability, relationships with colleagues, or other opportunities if others don’t agree with their position. They may hold back if they disagree with what the larger group or leadership has said.
“My job will be at risk.”
Individuals often fear that pursuing the path of diversity, equity, and inclusion will mean that others, less experienced, skilled, or deserving, will be promoted ahead of them. They may fear that they will lose their jobs in favor of a “more diverse” candidate.
I will lose influence or become marginalized.
Individuals fear that if there are “too many” individuals of diverse identities represented or in decision-making roles, individuals representing the majority will have less position, influence, or voice, and become marginalized themselves.
As consultants, Teamer Strategy Group believes in meeting individuals exactly where they are. It’s essential to begin with the understanding that people are coming from different places, experiences, and perspectives. We begin our relationship with organizations through a process of discovery which includes understanding present culture to build trust and comfort in-relationship to create brave spaces for people to share their anxieties and experiences around diversity, equity, and inclusion work without fear of judgment.
Understanding the organization’s commitment to continue on its DEI journey, we develop individualized training and tools to meet entities where they are and help them get where they want to be.
Anyone can be a champion in the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion. A champion acts from their values, which creates courage, confidence, and resilience, both within themselves and in those they work with or advocate for on this journey.
What are your fears?
Think about which of these five common fears you see coming up most frequently in yourself as you embark on this journey.
What fears show up most frequently in you or your teams?
How can you help create brave spaces to build trust and help others feel comfortable sitting in discomfort as you move forward with this work?
How can you work to center your values, and act with courage, confidence, and resilience?