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Traditional DEI work has not succeeded at dismantling systems that perpetuate harm and exclude BIPOC groups. Proponents of DEI have put too much focus on HR solutions, such as increasing representation, and not enough emphasis on changing the deeper organizational systems that perpetuate inequities—in other words, on justice. DEIJ work diverges from traditional metrics-driven DEI work and requires a new approach to effectively dismantle power structures.
This thought-provoking, solutions-oriented book offers strategic advice on how to adopt a justice mindset, anticipate and address resistance, shift power dynamics, and create a psychologically safe organizational culture. Individual chapters provide pragmatic how-to guides to implementing justice-centered practices in recruitment and hiring, data collection and analysis, learning and development, marketing and advertising, procurement, philanthropy, and more.
DEIJ pioneer Mary-Frances Winters and her coauthors address some of the most significant aspects of adding a justice focus to diversity work, showing how to create a workplace culture where equity is not a checklist of performative actions but a lived reality.
Read an Excerpt
Over the past fifty years, reams of research have been published around the idea of psychological safety, an aspect of organizational culture that cultivates openness, engagement, and positive change. It is the feeling among employees that employers and managers will not punish them for speaking up. As David Altman from the Center for Creative Leadership puts it: “People need to feel comfortable speaking up, asking naïve questions, and disagreeing with the status quo to create ideas that make a real difference . . . . It doesn’t mean that everybody is nice all the time. It means you embrace the conflict and speak up, knowing that your team has your back and you have their backs.” While most of the literature in this area has focused on team dynamics and organizational hierarchy—including the business case for psychological safety—the current zeitgeist requires we refine it even further with an eye toward justice: A just organization ensures that Black and POC employees are psychologically safe.
The majority of organizations in the US are still hierarchical in their structures. Generally speaking, org charts are a nominal variation of “executives are positioned above upper management, which in turn stands above middle management, which then oversees the general staff population.” There may be more levels, different terminology, or perhaps even a nice-looking horizontal layout, but at its core, this structure has become the operating paradigm in staffing. There are plenty of benefits of utilizing such a structure, and it can be highly effective in producing an organization’s desired outcomes, whatever they may be. The adage too often remains true, though: “Bad news doesn’t travel up.”
More to the point: bad news doesn’t travel up if no one feels safe sharing bad news. Likewise, good ideas die a quick death along with the bad news if employees expect their ideas to be overlooked, criticized, or dismissed out of hand. Put another way—the traditional workplace hierarchy often suppresses growth and change by suppressing bad news and good ideas due to employees not feeling psychologically safe. “Often” is the operative word there, for it doesn’t have to be so.
It takes a concerted effort from the team and company leaders to create a psychologically safe working environment, especially for Black and POC employees. Leaders have to be willing to receive open, honest feedback and not feel threatened by ideas from those lower in the hierarchy—especially employees of color—and cultivate a culture where everyone feels safe sharing.
About the Author:
The Winters Group Team contributors are Kevin A. Carter, Megan Ellinghausen, Scott Ferry, Gabrielle Gayagoy Gonzalez, Dr. Terrence Harewood, Tami Jackson, Dr. Megan Larson, Leigh Morrison, Katelyn Peterson, Mareisha N. Reese, Thamara Subramanian, and Rochelle Younan-Montgomery.
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