There was (as you would expect) a myriad of comments, observations and suggestions about all aspects of leadership however, one of the recurring topics was the subject of diversity. More specifically and perhaps even more important, it involved discussions about how to develop fully inclusive leadership methodology and skills. It was suggested that as prejudice is still a prevalent trait within management roles, much of the ‘diversity‘ training that we deliver today is actually destined to failure.
I couldn’t help myself, I had to try and examine some of the ‘issues’ a little more deeply…
To many people, the Political Correctness surrounding diversity in ethnicity, or sexual orientation of an individual, makes the topic an absolute taboo. People are living in fear of the consequences that could beset them. Expressing an opinion trying to outline your thoughts and feelings about the subject is simply not the done thing. Choose the wrong word or phrase at your peril, you will automatically be branded as a bigot, racist, sexist or homophobe, you could even face prison. Be assured George’s dystopian Thought Police will pursue you with vigour.
If employers do have genuine problems with truly ‘valuing’ and ’embracing’ diversity in the workforce, why is this? Are we naturally and inherently racist/sexist or, could the basis for this inability actually be attributed to, our society’s constant and overt love affair with political correctness?
Within our working environments, we are constantly ‘ear bashed’ by people who are “celebrating diversity”‘; when I hear the now commonplace PC rhetoric I have to admit, I tend to shut down. I suspect there are many others who do the same. To my mind political correctness is actually creating even greater division. If we all genuinely supported the values that a diverse workforce can present, why are we constantly expressing and promoting the difference, instead of celebrating the fact, in a far more inclusive manner? It is the ‘p’ in political correctness and what do politicians ultimately rely on? Popularity with a capital ‘P’ and here’s the rub, much of the drive behind political correctness is actually about politicians courting public popularity. Often little more than a vain attempt to placate the grievances and agenda of one particular (usually minority) group or another.
Today most employees hit the ground running in any new post with an ear full of diversity issues delivered at induction. For that reason alone, the workers who are destined for promotion in the future should already possess greater levels of understanding and the ‘tools’ required for the job. Assuming this to be the case and as time progresses, we should see a natural wastage of the inept managers unable to ’embrace diversity’. A far more inclusive management style should become the norm of the future however, continued PC drive may scupper the natural evolution.
So much has been done to address prejudice and bigotry in today’s workplace, perhaps the time is right to scale back from enforcement and drive on the issues? Unfortunately, society will always suffer from bigoted individuals however, you can’t legislate for everything. The stringent UK gun laws are an example in point, they still don’t prevent disturbed people from running amok and becoming mass murderers.
It is my personal belief that; constant legislation, guidance and positive selection processes are starting to become counterproductive and we are beginning to alienate large sections of our society. The relatively recent emergence of organisations such as the British National Party or the English Defence League (and some of their more distasteful elements), should be seen as a stark warning. These erstwhile embryonic organisations for people with minority viewpoints are unfortunately expanding. They only came to fruition because some sections of our population feel disenfranchised from their own nation. Constant Political Correctness has without a doubt played a significant part in their growth and if we don’t scale it back somewhat, we are actually in danger of undoing all the previous good work that has helped with equality and diversity issues.
Political correctness (often abbreviated to PC): a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, disability, and age-related contexts. (Read more at Wikipedia)