The Diversity Trap – A Double Whammy🧑‍💼👩‍💼 (guest post)

In today’s corporate world Diversity and Inclusion are the trending buzz words at the higher echelons of Senior and Top Management. There are many studies done on the advantages of bringing in Diversity but today, I would like to call out the shortcuts used by companies to achieve Diversity and the inevitable Diversity Trap that they then find themselves in.

Companies that lack diversity are being called out publicly and are even losing business on account of it.  

Bringing diversity to the workplace has now become the norm and that responsibility has inevitably fallen on the shoulders of our beloved Human Resources (HR) Department. The HR Department rises to the occasion and resorts to a quick fix by treating Diversity as a quota that needs to be met immediately. The problem with quotas is that – they are measurable and timebound, the latter is easy to define while the former is a challenge. The question then arises as to how does one measure Diversity.

A quick reference check into Organizational Diversity indicate that multiple studies outlined that Organizational Diversity in the workplace refers to the various defining personal traits in the employee workforce & the levels of diversity that one finds in these personal traits, among the employees within their peer group. The commonly identified defining personal traits are age, gender, appearance, education, race, marital status, religion to name a few. 

The HR Department which is tasked with achieving diversity quickly realizes that the easiest and least controversial diversity quota fulfilment can be done by focusing on one factor – gender. This narrow laser focus on gender diversity helps not only to tick all the right boxes but also enables the creation of a poster child / public face for representing the organization at various high-profile events. Thus the brilliant HR Department has killed two birds with one stone and deserves a pat on the back.

However on closer scrutiny, one finds that HR has just sounded the death knell to all the advantages that diversity was supposed to usher into an organization. Organizations benefit when Diversity brings in different ideas, a different perspective, a different viewpoint, a different approach, a different way of getting things done … all these were tossed out of the window and instead HR becomes the diversity killer with their narrow visual focus on gender.

At a leadership level, when strategic decision making is taking place, it is Diversity of thought processes that is imperative and not gender. Diversity of thought processes can be broadly classified as a function of learnings from experiences (internal) that an individual has and the Environment (external) that the individual grew up in.

HR’s shortcut to solve the Diversity problem with gender diversity has instead created far more problems. At the leadership level, to achieve gender diversity, Managerial Candidates are often given double promotions to quickly fill in that reserved seat on the Board. These Managerial Candidates end up having responsibilities for which they are neither mature enough to handle nor qualified enough to handle. 

Once Corporate strategies have been broadly planned out, the execution of the same falls into the hands of these Managerial Candidates. In their desire to show – who’s the boss – these Managerial Candidates then roll out their versions of field execution strategies, which from the ground level will yield nothing but catastrophic results. Ground level execution teams will find themselves in a catch 22 situation if they execute the strategy, they face failure and will bear the responsibility for the failure. If they don’t execute the strategy, they will be reported for insubordination and labelled as uncollaborative. 

A possible strategy that Ground level execution teams have is to feign stupidity, so as to not look smarter than their Manager and then throw up exploratory ideas and make their Manager think it’s their idea. Managerial candidates will then latch onto this as their idea and upon it’s successful execution, project it as their idea and claim credit for the same. The only way such Managerial Candidates can keep surviving is to isolate the Ground level execution teams from the Top Management, while at the same time promoting those of the same gender and thereby enabling cronyism and building further incompetence into the system. 

Thus Corporates that allow their HR Departments to equate diversity with gender fall into this Diversity Trap, that will lead to promotion of mediocrity and the exit of talented staff from their organizations. Double Whammy, thankyou HR !

Cheers,

TS.

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