Disruptive Diversity: The Missing Link To Effective Diversity And Inclusion Efforts

Rajkumari Neogy

January 05, 2016

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It is a widely held belief that diversity and inclusion programs, which bring people from different demographic, geographic, and socioeconomic backgrounds together, can improve workplace relationships while enhancing corporate innovation and brand. As a result, many tech companies began implementing such diversity and inclusion programs with particular emphasis on issues tied to unconscious bias. While all very well-intentioned, it is perplexing to see that the diversity and inclusion needle has barely moved within tech companies. Why is this so?

Why Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives Fail

Programs aimed at diversity manifest themselves in an intentional effort to cultivate a workforce representing different social, racial, cultural, and economic backgrounds. In such diverse work cultures, there is recognition that stereotyping can occur which might impact workplace performance. This has led to the explosive growth in unconscious bias training, and yet, problems persist.

According to Maxine Williams (Head of Global Diversity, Facebook), "the bad news is that we apply stereotypes almost automatically; we don't really think about it. The good news is that you can control it once you think about it." (This quote comes from their public videos on Managing Unconscious Bias.)

Here is the issue with this statement. Unconscious bias initiatives are built around the left brain or rational thinking. They assume that awareness of an issue is sufficient to avoid problems. For example, many people are aware that they want to go to the gym regularly for various reasons. And yet . . . so many of them don't . . . for years. Awareness doesn't necessarily result in a shift of behavior. Or even the motivation to change the behavior.

Behavioral shift demands more than awareness or left brain training. Inclusion initiatives must go the extra step in addressing the right brain processes tied to inclusion and its negative effect, exclusion. This is where Disruptive Diversity comes into play. Disruptive Diversity enables individuals to see the WHOLE picture using both the left and right brain.

How Exclusion Impacts Workplace Relationships and Atrophies Performance

As companies make the purposeful migration from homogeneous to heterogeneous workforces, issues of exclusion can crop up among the most well-intentioned employees. The feeling of exclusion registers in the brain identical to physical injury. As we all know, the body takes time to repair a physical injury. With exclusion, if an emotional repair doesn't occur, then every single time an employee encounters someone who reminds them of feeling excluded, according to their brain, it's as if they are being reinjured.

Three things are happening here:

1. The excluded party is in a state of reaction, not reflection because their nervous system has coded the encounter as pain.

2. The excluded party feels justified in treating the other poorly because they were affronted or disrespected in some manner.

3. This cycle repeats endlessly.

Repairing the Leaky Pipeline

Human Resources heads are constantly seeking to solve for the 'leaky pipeline' problem found within organizations. Their focus is around recruiting and retention by betting big on greater odds. Ultimately, it becomes a numbers game, rather than focusing on the key issue: solving for exclusion.

Directly addressing exclusion through the Disruptive Diversity program has led to astounding results in relation to the 'leaky pipeline' issue. Here is what happened to three women in tech during a six-week cycle in 2015:

Client A (Jane) was promised a VP position for 13 months. Feeling frustrated and overworked, Jane started to distrust her boss, thinking it was never going to materialize. Their relationship began to deteriorate and communication became terse. Self-doubt began clouding Jane's ability to perform and impacted her confidence and desire to show up and stay motivated. She decided after 10 years, it was time to start looking for a new job. After a 1 hour consult, she opted for the Disruptive Diversity six-week coaching program instead. By the third session, Jane secured the VP position in writing to start January 1, 2016. Additionally, Jane now experiences her boss as "so nice to me."

Demographic factors: Female, Caucasian, 56, VP of Finance

Client B (Phuong) was an engineer at a series A startup. Phuong's goal was to lead a team of engineers and eventually become head of Eng. Though Phuong was timid, afraid to ask for the position and unsure of how to go about taking the lead, she worked excessive hours hoping to be noticed by the leadership team. Phuong had now been with the company for almost two years. When she came to me, she asked if a three-year runway would get her to head of engineering. By the 4th session of the Disruptive Diversity program, Phuong was promoted to head of engineering, leading a team of 14.

Demographic factors: Female, Asian, 25, Head of Engineering

Client C (Lindsay) had an almost identical experience to Jane and Phuong. After feeling stuck in a position that provided no growth opportunity or leadership track, Lindsay chose the Disruptive Diversity program. By her 5th session, she landed a position in a senior management role with a top software company recently selected as a 2015 Red Herring Top 100 Global Winner.

Demographic factors: Female, Caucasian, 37, Sr. Implementation Manager

Engaging the Right Brain to Drive Performance, Engagement, and Loyalty

So what happened here? As we know, pulling one lever within a system impacts change on the entire system. The Disruptive Diversity program focuses on a simple and unique 'rupture and repair' method that quickly surfaces inner root causes of exclusion (rupture) and then creates an innate state of inclusion (repair). By connecting the left and right hemisphere using our unique method, we dissolve the cortisol caused by experiences of exclusion and allow for the synaptic transmission to complete. Individuals show up in the workplace with greater attention to detail, higher performance levels, sustained dedication and an increased sense of belonging.

States of exclusion can show up in an employee's experience as the following:

Benefits of Disruptive Diversity Training

When we fully engage the LEFT and RIGHT brain to see the whole picture, employees experience tremendous resilience and enhanced productivity. Benefits include,

"Greater flexibility in the moment of a crisis.
"The ability to not take things personally.
"Regulate triggers during an interaction and move from a demand to a request.
"Pausing and reflecting during feelings of shutting down, snappy, dismissive, withholding, etc.
"Higher levels of confidence, assertion and authentic expression.
"The art of asking powerful and clarifying questions from a place of curiosity rather than defensiveness.
"More comfort around seeking to understand the situation or circumstance before needing to be understood.
"Sustained performance through team cohesion and improved trust.
"Sophisticated forms of empathic communication through respectful and welcoming demeanor.
"Notable increase of emotional, social, cultural and body intelligence.
"Strengthened ability to set priorities and achieve goals.
This program is simple, fast and efficient allowing individuals to see results immediately. Lasting and permanent transformation can be achieved within a six-week timeframe.

"You cannot feel fully included until you understand where you're being excluded."

Rajkumari Neogy, MA works with individuals and organizations to make transformative and sustainable shifts. She is fascinated by workplace culture, especially in the tech arena. Over the last 20 years, she has worked with organizations worldwide such as Cisco Systems, Facebook, Sony, Adobe, JVC and Amazon. In 2013 she founded iRestart, providing expertise in leadership development, diversity & inclusion and mentorship. She is the creator of the Disruptive Diversity coaching framework and the author of The WIT Factor: Shifting the Workplace Paradigm by Becoming Your Optimal Self. As a Certified Master Trainer and Neuro-Linguistic Programmer holding a Master's Degree in Transformative Leadership Development from the California Institute of Integral Studies, Rajkumari sits quite comfortably at the intersection of neuroscience, technology and culture. Possessing a rare blend of techno-babble and touchy-feely, she brings her keen insight and systems-thinking perspective to provide holistic and integrative solutions when addressing complex problems. She believes that the qualities of passionate self-reflection and dedicated curiosity (two sides of the same coin) define true leadership.

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