As DEI leaders, one of the most discussed, but rarely understood, frustrations of our experience is RESISTANCE. Indeed, it is tempting to oversimplify such obstacles as manifestations of privilege, ignorance, hate, and/or the many “-isms” that unfortunately still exist today, and then try to ignore them. Nevertheless, as one of my great orthopaedic mentors used to say – “Problems that go away on their own often come back on their own.”
So we should all put our boxing gloves on and tackle resistance head on, right?
Well, that’s easier said than done. While we are all too familiar with resistance, I realized early-on in my leadership tenure that there were very few resources that adequately prepared me to face these DEI challenges, and even fewer that provided effective solutions.
To be honest, I am certainly not a fan of conflict (my TKI conflict style is avoiding-accommodating – more on that another day). However, there can be great value in not just writing off push-back as ignorance, but rather leaning in and understanding the themes, patterns, and various origins so that we can be better informed to address it.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, authors took a deep dive into the drivers of resistance. They unpacked multiple causes and forms (“Defending” vs. “Denying” vs. “Distancing”) and provided advisement on how leaders can maneuver when these threats to diversity and equity are encountered.
Resistance is not going away anytime soon. In some places, it’s heating up. The more we understand its roots, the better equipped we are as leaders and innovators in this complicated, critical journey.