Why is DEI so complicated nowadays?

DEI practitioners share their observations and thoughts

Monika Chutnik
Why is DEI so complicated nowadays?

DEI has always been special as an area, but in the recent time it has probably become even more complicated than ever before. Why is that so? This question was asked to DEI professionals in the course on De-Polarising Dialogue, by Maja Nenadović and the Institute for Developing Across Differences.

What you find here is a set of spontaneous comments and reflections which we have together generated and shared. Please do not treat them as “The only truth” but rather as a starting point for your own reflection – and dialogue 😊

What might be relevant to mention is that most participants in this very session were coming from USA and the Netherlands, with individuals representing Belgium, Canada, France, Slovakia, Egypt, and myself – Poland. The Dutch government has just collapsed due to disagreement on migration policies, we are in July 2023.

 

So, why is DEI so complicated nowadays?

Tribal mindset.  The “us vs them” paradigm boiled into the DEI. As humans, at the end of the day we are happy to create little groups. We start differentiating between these groups by labelling “the others”. My label vs your label, they might not be compatible. Labelling is stopping us from creating a society of humans beyond the tribal mentality. The biology of the brain works this way, too!

Power dynamics. People in power realize they might need to give up some of their power. Some people actually feel frightened to lose their positions. This creates tensions and push back.

Priviledge. It might have been taken for granted in the past, but now privilege is addressed and named as such. People in priviledge are not willing to give it up. Feelings of guilt and shame which are caused or imposed only make the push back stronger, noone in priviledge wants “atonement”.

Competition, globalisation create fear that people from elsewhere could also take our jobs or positions.

Uncertainty and fear. The craving to protect yourself leads to the mindset or desire to have “certainty”. You want something that is certain. The certainty gives us the legitimization to imagine that something is “right” or “wrong”. Within this mindset, we start searching for further certainties. “Tell me what is the right thing to do” seems to be more attractive and more frequently asked than “How can we be effective and transformative?”

Lacking skills. Following these cravings, DEI experts do produce checklists and recommendations. However, there is a disconnect between the recommendations themselves and the skill set thsat is needed to make these recommendations happen.

Finding voices. Individuals and groups who until recently used to be voiceless, now are finding their voices. People dare to talk about diversity and priviledge, there is more awareness and knowledge. Following the doubt on the skill set, there is a question of how to deal with all these voices!

Beliefs and identities. DEI is special in itself, as it directly refers to elements strongly intertwined with identity and beliefs or life ideologies, both on the individual and group levels. Differences in this area are perceived as rooted deep. Having a dialogue with a person or a group perceived as very different on the deep level is very hard.

Lonely. DEI as an area seems to be a bit lonely, and – at the moment – still detached from other areas. In this sense, it might be harder to get lessons learned in other contexts, or build alliances within organisational structures.

Me. – What about me? – is a question that makes sense. The position of a DEI Lead, DEI Champion or DEI Manager is not well established and not yet widely understood. DEI practitioners need to put work to understand what their role actually is about, how they communicate this role to other organisational actors, and how they pursue this role in practice.

Contradictions. You are told “to stand up for yourself”… but when you do, you are nailed down for that.

Weaponizing. Some people use DEI as a way to explain their bad behaviour. This means that in such cases they are weaponising DEI.

No emotional capacity. In the whole discourse, hardly anyone has been able to address human emotionality, the actual emotions. If we were able to do that, we would be able to make a step forward.

Physics of change. Social processes follow the mechanisms of physics: the stronger you push, the stronger pushback you get. But also, any change requires the pendulum of change to swing out to a pivoted position, which in fact is much more extreme than the desired outcome. It will take time for the pendulum to find the new position of stability.

 

So many various thoughts and perspectives. Which of them resonate with you the most? What is missing on this list, perhaps? Please do share in the comments below 👇💚

 


I find DEI an interesting area, and I come from the corner of opportunities and team results. I find it so important that leaders feel comfortable to have open and courageous conversations within their teams. Yes, there are challenges, and many of them have been described above. In my training and online workshop sessions, I play on the positive note and help leaders become more inclusive – and more human.

At ETTA, we believe that inclusive leadership is a skill to be learned. We support the development of human centric leaders in a virtual and international environment. ETTA means experts in business psychology, inclusive leadership, cross-cultural communication, and virtual teams. We work remotely for groups from all over the world, conducting trainings, workshops and webinars in English, Polish, German, or French. With ETTA, you can do more with what you have, plus work on the competences of the future. Please do feel welcome to get in touch 👍😊


 

Photo by Kalle Saarinen on Unsplash

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