Over the years, some have wondered why developing and implementing a diversity program was so challenging. Many have attributed part of the difficulty to the natural resistance to change (e.g. uncertainty, discomfort, loss of control). Notwithstanding those who outright oppose the concept of diversity, the difference between understanding the concept and accepting the implementation of diversity initiatives is a barrier that has to be surmounted.
I am referring to people who agree with the notion of embracing diversity but are less than totally supportive of its integration into the fabric of the organization. This phenomenon exists in varying degrees from the boardroom where diversity policy is developed to the meeting rooms, offices, cubicals and shop floor where the policy is implemented. Simply put, the cognitive understanding of the benefits of diversity will not necessarily lead to its acceptance.
I have witnessed this phenomenon many times during my tenure advocating diversity in dispute resolution organizations. Diversity Resistance is the term I use to describe the interference that precludes the harmonious assimilation of diversity into an organization. The following are some examples of diversity resistance:
- delaying consideration/implementation of diversity issues
- attacking diversity as being too time consuming or complex
- resisting the inclusion of people with diverse backgrounds in all aspects of the organization
- accepting/condoning the inequitable compensation/utilization of people with diverse backgrounds
- discrediting information provided by people with diverse backgrounds
- unwilling to acknowledge and recognize the contributions of people with diverse backgrounds.
Diversity Resistance may seem like a mysterious occurrence in certain organizations because some are able to see it and others cannot.
(to be continued)
Marvin Johnson is a nationally recognized mediator, arbitrator and trainer with over 27 years of dispute resolution experience. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution and previously was Associate Professor at Bowie State University. Mr. Johnson received his Doctorate of Jurisprudence from Catholic University. He has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Kent State University and a Master of Science Degree in Industrial Relations from the University of Wisconsin. Mr. Johnson has worked for the Department of Labor, the Federal Labor Relations Authority, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the National Treasury Employees Union, the National Football League Players' Association, and the National Academy of Conciliators. As a consultant, Mr. Johnson serves as a mediator, an arbitrator, a fact-finder, and a facilitator in hundreds of public and private disputes. He provides dispute resolution training and lectures extensively on the subject of conflict management.