Dealing With Resistance to Diversity & Inclusion: Top 6 Strategies for Leaders

August 28, 2023 | Maureen Frank

Leadership is not an easy job. Not only do leaders have responsibilities towards their teams, but they must also maintain a good working environment in order to get the most out of their employee’s potential. This often includes introducing diversity and inclusion initiatives that may be met with resistance or disapproval from some members of the team. It can be a painful and challenging experience for leaders, but it is essential that they do not give in to this kind of setback. So what are the strategies for dealing with resistance to diversity & inclusion? Here are 6 strategies leaders should consider when dealing with individuals resistant to diversity and inclusion initiatives:

6 Strategies of Dealing With Resistance to Diversity and Inclusion for Leaders

1. There is Something in this for You

Educating your team on why diversity and inclusion initiatives are important for you, for them and for the organization is the first step in getting them to accept and embrace these changes. Get vulnerable, get courageously curious (both of these are some of my 6 Habits of being inclusive, which we embed for leaders through our habit shift-based program, the Inclusion Habits Journey), challenge thinking and have the uncomfortable conversation around why actually, there is something in this for all of us.

2. Foster Deeper Conversations

It’s easy to talk about concepts such as diversity and inclusion, but it is much more difficult to get individuals to actually engage in meaningful conversations around these topics. Leaders must create a safe environment where everyone is comfortable with speaking their minds and contributing to the discussion (again, some practical examples of conversations in our Inclusion Habits Journey will help you).

3. Set Clear Expectations

Make sure your expectations are clear and communicated to all members of the team. For example, outline what kind of behaviour and language will not be tolerated and make sure everyone is aware of the consequences of not following the guidelines.

4. Practice What You Preach

Leading by example is a powerful way to demonstrate your commitment to diversity and inclusion initiatives. Make sure you are actively involved in the process, engaging with different teams, and celebrating successes along the way.

5. Offer Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a great tool to motivate individuals who may be resistant to change. Leaders should reward team members for their efforts and recognize their achievements, no matter how small they are.

6. Remain Open-Minded

Remember that everyone has the right to disagree and express their opinion with respect. As a leader, it’s important to remain open-minded and understanding of different perspectives. It’s also important to acknowledge any valid points that are made and take them into account.

Dealing With Resistance to Diversity and Inclusion

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that diversity and inclusion efforts cannot just be a set of policies; they must be infused into the everyday life of the organization to ensure success. Leaders must lead by example and create an environment where everyone feels respected, accepted, and included. Only then can true progress be made in creating an inclusive workplace culture. We are finding that leaders who want to get clear on the Inclusive Leadership Shadow truly value the process we have developed around this. Our program is short and gets a result, we call it the Inclusive Leadership Commitment CHALLENGE, and it uses our Inclusive Leadership Shadow tool for leaders to challenge themselves and get clear on their own narrative and plan around being an inclusive leader. It’s for leaders who are up for real change!

Final Thoughts

Leadership is all about guiding people toward a common goal. If leaders can stay committed to their vision and remain focused on the bigger picture, they will be more likely to succeed in getting everyone on board with diversity and inclusion initiatives. But for leaders – you have to know what your goals are and your plan. That’s why we recommend our Inclusive Leadership Commitment CHALLENGE. By understanding and self-reflecting on your inclusive leadership shadow, debating and asking some uncomfortable questions of your team, you will start to show your commitment and your clear compass directed at your north star: an inclusive culture for your team and your organisation.

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