D&I attempts being undermined

Hi there

I am sole HR in a small company of less than 50 employees, currently studying for level 5.  I've been at the company for 12.5 years seeing it grow from 4 people.  I'm trying to help the company evolve.  HR is only half of my role.

I have made tentative steps towards starting D&I conversations.  I plan to have a D&I committee and am working on how to do that well.

I thought I'd make a start by putting some interesting and in my opinion valid resources on our Workplace page.  I've only posted two things, one about anti-racism and one about trans awareness.  On the first post  they commented "if you want a quick over-view of 'How to be anti-racist' I'll summarise it for you. Black people can not be racist and have nothing to learn on the subject. Racisim is only a white problem and whites are not educated on anti-racism, therefore this 'training' is only for whites.  Their words BTW, not mine.  Apparently, even though I AM ant-racist, according to this, as a white, I am responsible for racism via my ancestors!!

Then on the trans awareness post they made a joke about cross dressing.

I feel so out of my depth and feel like I have opened a can of worms that I am not well enough equipped to deal with.  I genuinely want to do the right thing for the company and our staff, but I don't know if I am going about it in the right way at all.

I'd be so grateful for some advice on how to deal with the person that I feel is undermining my efforts.  

Thanks in advance.

  • HI Caroline. Welcome to the communities. I don't have any real suggestions more a few observations but I am sure others will be along soon.
    First of well done for trying to tackle D & I it is hard especially in a small firm. I think how they have responded shows the need for some training. I presume that you know the person who was posting so you can go down 2 routes. Chat to them and see why they made such comments or speak to their manager and instigate an disciplinary investigation. My view would be to speak to them on a one to one basis. If the Company have never had any type of D & I before they may not fully understand it and they need to be reminded that posting on such media could be seen as harassment.
    Get all senior management on your side make sure they know exactly what your plans are so they can filter this down. Otherwise new ideas and changes can just be seen as more nonsense ideas from HR (this was said to me once, so I made sure after that I had all managers support before I would try and introduce anything)
    Finally its Friday, recharge over the weekend and don't give up.
  • In reply to Tracey:

    Thank you so much Tracey, that's really helpful and greatly appreciated. I felt so deflated, but your comments have spurred me on! Have a lovely weekend.
  • Welcome to the communties Caroline!

    Did you pass this by your own manager? If not then you may have put yourself out on a limb.

    As Tracey said, I'd still, non the less tackle the individual yourself. Don't be confrontational, just discuss it with them. `In my view trying to tackle it as a disciplinary issue will just make your working condition worse. What does your manager think about it?

  • Caroline, you are a Star - well done. The comments from the employee say more about them and their problem then anything else, always remember that. Do not be undermined - chin-up, shoulders back, get that serotonin pumping, as Prof. Jordon Peterson discusses in his book '12 Rules for Life', and you confidence will go skyhigh!

    I used to run the diversity and inclusion teams for the Metropolitan Police Service and do deliver D&I training - D&I is a huge issue and racism is currently headline stuff.

    There are several considerations for you: 1) What are you trying to achieve, what are your objectives in trying to start D&I conversations? You need to be clear otherwise all your efforts will fizzle out; 2) Who is driving this agenda. Tracey is absolutely spot-on - the CEO is critical in driving this, it needs to come from the top. Once that is achieved, get as many of the senior team on board - they will need to be accountable for the compliance of their staff. Remember, however, that some of the senior team may not want to support you - perhaps they have racist tendencies. 3) If the CEO is with you, then you have a major change/behaviour project on your hands - fantastic! Now you can start to involve others, including the person that has rebuffed you at the outset.

    Stand-up to this one Caroline - the world and your organisation need people like you.
  • Hi Caroline, starting a new initiative, as a standalone in any area can be daunting especially when it is on sensitive areas like D and I where so many people might think this is a personal thing and maybe don't understand the business imperative for it. It takes bravery to make the first step. Hang on in there and well done for making the move.

    I'd add to Tracey, David and Tom's points. My reflections would be:
    *Build engagement. Not only from management and leadership, consider the workers. Are there any allies, either those prepared to talk about their experiences or allies who feel this is a workplace issue?
    *Build a community. Gather interested people together from across your biz so any initiative isn't a solo effort or one led from the top alone. We all need ideas, thoughts, views, reflections and support to move things forward. We can't do it alone. We also don't always have all the great ideas.
    *Training. I'm not sure I would start with a course. Despite our best efforts this can come out of the blue and feel like teaching and preaching. I might suggest starting with what's D and I got to do with business sessions? Raise awareness, get the stats for your business and others ready to share what the picture tells you about your workplace and get people thinking. You can build on this with other training. Build the case and people might suggest they need more or you can build on it for them.
    * Support for you. It's great to see you post here. Who else is helping you think about what to do, give you ideas, help you learn and help you when you get a knock back like 'humour/banter' like this. Gathering others, from outside our businesses as a source of support is super helpful.

    I like to see myself as anti-racist and a good ally but I have no idea what it is to be black or a person of colour and I'm accepting that, learning and listening. It's painful to hear comments that are made about 'it's okay for me because...'. It's painful because it's true. I'm now trying to use my position to assist rather than add to the problem but it's not easy and I make mistakes every day.
  • In reply to Sharon:

    Hi Caroline,
    Obviously we would need a lot more information on the company, its organisation and staff to go deep on a response but it may well be that your company has now grown and is on that inflection point where it can no longer be run effectively without more structure (not necessarily hierarchy).
    Business of this size tend not to focus on altruism but heavily on the bottom line and by leveraging this will likely get you best uptake from the leadership.
    Are they getting the best out of their staff (now and for the future i.e development) or are they overlooking/losing talent because of blinkered perspectives shown by the leadership and/or the staff themselves?
    Do they serve their customers and reach potential customers the best they can or do irrelevant opinions or value judgements prevent them from seeing different opportunities?
    Unless or until the leaders that matter can see the need to improve for one of the above reasons you will be trying to "push fog uphill".
    Forget the staff for now, except to use any useful examples for the above, and focus on the key leaders ... all else will follow. Believe me, I've been there and have the T-shirt but also believe in yourself because it can be a long hard journey. Enjoy the ride - you will learn a lot along the way.
  • In reply to Martin:

    Hi Martin, great points on looking at what business impacts or imperatives might be there to make D and I a live and relevant need. Getting the data is key to finding the levers that work for each business. Like the 'fog uphill' metephor. I wade through treacle sometimes but it often only takes one or two key events or people to help create a bit more traction.
  • Can you turn off/remove the comments on any sensitive issues?

    In addition to the great suggestions from Tracey below, I would say that difficult employees are sometimes just frustrated by not feeling heard but can make the strongest allies if you win them over. Let them feel listened to. Try phrases like: "I am interested to hear why you feel like that. What is your experience of working here? What do you think we should focus on changing first?"

    If they are completely unwilling to engage with you, then you need to take a harder line so they don't undermine what you are trying to achieve.

    As others have commented, senior buy-in is crucial and needs to be seen and heard. Without this you may just decide that you would be better valued for your enthusiasm somewhere else. Good luck!
  • When it comes to the race issue, you may like to read this thread:


    A suggestion I made there was that employers should be wary of just starting open-ended conversations like this, as they invite the expression of extreme views as you've discovered. Rather, for conversations within the workplace and under the employer's purview, employers should set clear boundaries and parameters that are considered axiomatic: in other words, they should tell employees in advance what subjects are open to debate and what subjects aren't. And this can be applied equally to trans and queer rights as it can to race rights.

    The point of this is that employers' interest in promoting good D&I is a healthy, motivated workforce that promotes and develops on the basis of merit. Accommodating the expression of extreme views has the opposite effect.
  • In reply to Robey:

    Great points Robey. Thanks also for linking the other conversation. Very useful.
  • Thanks everyone for taking the time to respond to me, I really do appreciate the effort and sentiment. I retreated to lick my wounds for a bit! I hadn't worded my original message well, the person is actually on our senior management team, and I was so taken aback because I hadn't anticipated that from them at all. The situation came to a head of sorts because I deleted the comment on trans awareness and they asked me why. So we dealt with that one. But I have a lot to learn and take all your comments on board. My CEO appears to 'buy in' but doesn't want to do the work, and also has some questionable views of his own, so my challenge is to start by educating him and the senior team before even attempting to go to employees. Of course the person who made the comments was absent from the meeting when I proposed my ideas. Typical! I will take my time to get this right, and will continue to educate myself first. Thanks again, it really meant a lot to get such supportive comments.
  • In reply to Caroline:

    Recently was discussing this on the CIPD Hackathon.

    Something we can often forget, in raising the D&I subject, is that, to our businesses, this is a bottom line issue. It is abundantly well evidenced that good diversity in a workforce leads to better productivity. It's not just about promoting a social good out of common human decency, but also about literally enriching the business.

    If you've got the privilege of Board-level access on this issue, I would strongly encourage you to lead with this as the key point. People who are on board with the "social good" argument are already on the right side of history. It's those who aren't who need to be won over via the thickness of their wallets.
  • In reply to Caroline:

    Well done Caroline,

    Remember, you may all work for the same organisation but you may each have had a very different upbringing, different experiences, values and beliefs. In a safe environment workshop it can be very powerful to allow pairs to compare these issues and spot the differences between them, and then share. Diversity is largely about self-awareness and awareness of others, then people can start to move towards inclusion and expand their 'in-group'.

    Have you seen the Youtube clip 'Fiers de leurs origines' 'www.youtube.com/watch It focuses on people having their DNA tested to identify their origin. Very powerful.
  • In reply to Robey:

    Yes. There's some great evidence on the business benefits - I think it's The Parker Review & other sources too over many years, presenting this, winning hearts & minds and delivering is the long road. If we don't take those first steps & keep moving nothing will shift. There are some great people and debates to follow on social media to inspire and keep us thinking and doing on this too.

    Good luck Caroline and thanks for sharing an update. It's great to hear how posts develop from the initial share.