The workplace is reminiscent of the public square, with employees polarized on political and social issues. These divisions make it difficult for employers, especially those pursuing diversity, equity and inclusion policies.
In the workplace, 44% of U.S. employees have avoided co-workers because of their political beliefs, according to Gartner survey data, and nearly an equal number think DEI policies are “diverse,” Gartner analyst Rachel Lawrence said at the research firm’s ReimagineHR conference last week.
Just under half of the workforce say “our efforts to make things more inclusive are rather creating more divides,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said this burst results in employee rejection of DEI’s efforts, and sometimes rejection can be disguised as good intentions. That includes the official who “always wants more DEI data and never does anything to act on it,” she said, to laughter from the audience.
Gartner is known for releasing a lot of survey data at its conferences, and this ReimagineHR conference was no exception. But for the DEI survey data, participants supported the broader assessment of the problem today.
One participant, Aja Howell, director of talent management at a private sector firm, said there was “a growing divide between people” and she didn’t believe the problem would go away. It is not just politics, but also religious and cultural issues that divide people, she said.
Don’t Avoid DEI Policy Rejection
Rachel LawrenceAnalyst, Gartner
Lawrence said the best way to deal with resistance and pushback DCI Policy Efforts is to engage it.
Management’s silence about DEI’s policies and efforts “makes employees feel more alienated; they don’t feel heard,” Lawrence said. “If avoiding pushback becomes an organizational habit, the status quo is that resistance is normalized as part of the culture.”
The political and social divisions affecting the country affect all levels of activity, according to Gartner.
In a Gartner survey of corporate boards, 57% of respondents said “Polarization and a polarized society is the biggest source of risk we have,” Gartner analyst Frank Buytendijk said in a presentation. on how executive leadership should respond to societal change.
In that same survey, Buytendijk noted, 60% of CEOs think it’s a good idea to speak out on social issues.
He said a good portion of employees won’t necessarily agree with their CEOs on some social issues, but cautioned that staying silent also comes at a cost.
“If you speak out on a social topic, you run the risk of alienating some of your employees and some of your customers,” Buytendijk said. “If you don’t speak out on social issues, you run the risk of alienating everyone.”
Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget Editorial. He worked for more than two decades as a corporate IT journalist.