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The Cost of Silence: The Impact of Corporate Neutrality on Sociopolitical Issues

DEI in 5: Biweekly DEI News

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 🤫 The Cost of Silence: The Impact of Corporate Neutrality on Sociopolitical Issues

Okay, so what are your thoughts on this: Let's say you're an organizational leadership team who's historically decided to remain neutral on sociopolitical issues. But just recently, a law was passed that negatively impacts those in non-heteronormative relationships.

You're aware that you have some employees who had a very conservative, religious upbringing and only believe in and support same-sex marriage. And while they respect their coworkers' lifestyles, they don't want to talk about 'personal' things at work. But you also have a handful of employees who are in non-heteronormative relationships, and are being directly impacted by this new law, and it's very apparent that it's affecting their ability to do their jobs effectively. What do you do?

Over the past few months, I've noticed growing internal tension at companies that have traditionally stayed 'neutral' on sociopolitical matters. Many employees see this neutrality or silence as leadership either being indifferent or lacking a moral compass, or even a silent nod to say that they support certain issues that may be doing significant harm to humans.

While I recognize that leaders often choose neutrality for a few key reasons, I don't necessarily agree with these approaches, however, I think it's still important to call out some of the common reasons that I've seen:

1) They choose to stay neutral to avoid upsetting investors, clients, or customers who might disagree with their stance, thereby protecting the company's finances.

2) Their personal stance doesn't always match the majority viewpoint, leading to a conflict between personal beliefs and professional, leadership responsibilities.

3) (And if we're keeping it 💯, this one is much less common) They recognize that their employees have different beliefs and they think that by remaining neutral and saying nothing, it means that they're fostering a more inclusive environment.

However, employees are increasingly expecting leaders to take clear positions, especially on issues that negatively impact large populations. This leads me to ask:

  • Are there limitations to inclusivity when it comes to embracing diversity of thought within our organizations?

  • What actions or steps have you seen leaders take in response to this demand for more direct engagement on sociopolitical issues?

  • Where do you think this trend is heading?

Drop a comment on LinkedIn or reply back to the email newsletter to let me know what you think.

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Today’s Top 3 DEI News Bites👇🏾

A colorful and abstract illustration featuring a group of individuals framed within various shapes, possibly representing diverse identities or personalities, engaging in a lively musical session with instruments, symbolizing harmony and teamwork in a vibrant community or workplace.

Illustration by Pablo Caracol

Summary: DEI leaders often experience burnout due to the emotional labor required in their roles, especially for professionals of color. This emotional strain, heightened by the need for surface acting and conformity to display rules, leads to frustration and exhaustion. Organizations that prioritize DEI efforts and integrate them into their culture alleviate this emotional labor.

The Details:

  • Emotional Labor: DEI leaders engage in significant emotional labor, managing and modifying their emotions to align with workplace expectations.

  • Surface Acting: DEI professionals frequently engage in surface acting, displaying emotions that do not reflect their true feelings due to workplace display rules.

  • Display Rules: DEI leaders, particularly women and racial minorities, navigate strict societal and organizational expectations regarding emotional expression.

  • Burnout and Turnover: The intense emotional demands of DEI roles contribute to high turnover, with the average tenure being only three years.

Why is this relevant: Organizations need to recognize the emotional toll of DEI work and provide supportive environments to retain DEI leaders. Understanding the challenges faced by these professionals is crucial for developing effective DEI strategies that benefit the entire organization. To foster sustainable DEI initiatives, companies should adopt a learning-and-effectiveness model, offering genuine support and resources to those in DEI roles.

A focused young woman with her hand extended forward in a halting gesture, signaling 'stop' or 'no further', with a blurred background suggesting a professional or office setting.

Discrimination and retaliation: where does it stop? GETTY

Summary: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's data highlights the prevalence of workplace discrimination, with retaliation being the most reported form. Retaliation occurs when employers penalize employees for reporting workplace harassment or discrimination, which is illegal. Despite legal protections, discrimination persists, with a noticeable increase in reports and public inquiries to the EEOC in Fiscal Year 2022.

The Details:

  • Retaliation: The most common form of workplace discrimination, where employers take adverse actions against employees who engage in "protected activity" related to reporting discrimination or harassment.

  • EEOC Data: In FY 2022, there were 73,485 new discrimination charges, a significant increase from the previous fiscal year, with more public interactions through calls and emails.

  • Protected Activities: These include filing complaints, participating in investigations, resisting discriminatory practices, requesting accommodations for disabilities or religious practices, and inquiring about salary information for uncovering discriminatory wages.

  • Top States for Discrimination: Tennessee leads with the highest rate of workplace discrimination charges per capita, followed by states like Arkansas, Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.

Why is this relevant: Workplace discrimination and retaliation are detrimental to organizational integrity and employee morale. Awareness and reporting through appropriate channels, such as the EEOC or state commissions, are crucial for safeguarding employee rights and fostering fair work environments. Employers must address these issues proactively to maintain a respectful and inclusive workplace culture.

Summary: The National Council for Mental Wellbeing has unveiled Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) at Work, a novel training initiative aiming to mitigate the adverse effects of workplace stress and fatigue. This program equips employees with the skills to identify and support colleagues facing mental health or substance use issues. It's a timely response to the increased need for mental health support in workplaces, where 40% of employees report job-related negative mental health impacts, and 75% perceive a stigma against discussing these issues.

The Details:

  • MHFA at Work Training: The program consists of different courses designed to integrate mental health and substance use support into organizational culture.

  • Recognition of Workplace Mental Health: Employers acknowledge the significance of mental health for both personal and corporate achievement, with the pandemic highlighting this need.

  • Training Solutions: MHFA at Work offers four tailored training solutions, ranging from introductory eLearning to comprehensive workshops for HR and management.

  • Industry-Specific Focus: MHFA at Work addresses unique challenges in retail, food and beverage service, and manufacturing, with industry-specific training.

  • Kate Spade New York Partnership: As an early adopter, the fashion brand plans to train nearly 1,000 employees using the MHFA at Work for Retail curriculum.

  • Research-Informed Curriculum: MHFA at Work is backed by over 40 studies demonstrating its effectiveness in enhancing mental health literacy and empathy.

Why is this relevant: In the current work environment, mental health awareness and support are crucial for maintaining employee well-being and productivity. MHFA at Work represents an innovative step in fostering workplace cultures that prioritize mental health, encouraging open discussions, and providing employees with the tools to support one another, ultimately benefiting organizational health and employee retention.

! The image is a promotional graphic for an event titled "DEI Roundtable: What's Going on In DEI," scheduled for Wednesday, Jan 31 at 5:30 PM EST. The graphic features a mustard-colored background at the top that fades into white towards the bottom. There are six circular headshot images of the speakers arranged in two rows of three. The top row includes Dr. Samantha Rae, Joquina Reed, and Dr. Janice Gassam Asare. The bottom row features Adriele Parker, John Graham Jr., and Dr. Venessa Marie Perry.

DEI practitioners, please join us on Wednesday, January 31st, as we discuss the changes we're seeing in the DEI space, our experiences as we navigate those changes, how we're feeling about being in this space, and what we think the future of DEI will look like.

You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions, share thoughts, and also seek advice/support. 

Note: This roundtable discussion is not intended to be an informational session about DEI or how to transition into this work.

A few other developments…👇🏾

Until later,

This newsletter is co-curated by Nico Escobar. Need virtual coordination? Social media management? Content creation? Reach out to her!

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