Are You “Playing” Diversity?
When I interviewed for my most recent position, I sat with a leader and asked if they practiced diversity or if they played diversity within this organization. He looked at me somewhat strangely, wondering what I meant about playing diversity. According to the dictionary, play is associated with a game. I explained that many places want to hire faculty of color to fulfill their quotas, yet people inside the organization are not prepared for the potential change that a diverse hire can bring to an organization. Diversity is not a game and should not be played as such.
Hiring diverse people in organizations that previously were not diverse means that someone is going to be uncomfortable. There is a cost for infusing diversity in the workplace, and many people are not aware of the price tag associated with this infusion. Costs may include reviewing and revising policies and processes; addressing biases and prejudices; changing infrastructure; educating everyone; engaging in conflict; making tough decisions when oppressions occur; and having conversations you never had to have before. Someone has to lead efforts associated with these costs, and unfortunately, the hire ends up having to educate people while focusing on doing a job in an environment that may or may not be welcoming.
Instead of waiting for an organization to do right because it is the right thing to do, I offer suggestions for people who may enter an environment where playing diversity is the norm.
Know your personal and professional boundaries.
Your job is not to be a martyr but to do your job, especially since you will be evaluated as such. Educate people once, twice, maybe three times. At some point, if you are educating and talking, yet people are not listening or are not able or willing to facilitate change, you have to try a new strategy. This may include changing the circle in which you engage or transitioning to a different environment. Abuse (as you define it for yourself) is not acceptable, and if you experience it, do something to protect yourself. Remember, your role is not to be a martyr for any job.
Engage in self-care.
If people are willing to work with you to promote diversity, the road ahead may be a bumpy one. Create and call on your tribe, which may include family, coaches, spiritual advisors, counselors, personal trainers, etc. It takes a village to support a diverse hire, and it is the responsibility of the hire to ensure that the village is a strong one. You can’t help others if you are not alive and well, so take care of yourself first.
No one knows you better than you know yourself. If you are in the middle of an organizational game that you do not want to play, do something different. We only have one life to live, and you don’t want to live it broken down in your mind, body, or spirit.