By Mary-Frances Winters, Stanford Social Innovation Review, October 14, 2020
Although more and more organizations are taking steps toward greater diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, people of color continue to consistently report feeling undervalued, unsafe, and exhausted from navigating unwelcoming work environments. They see implicit biases play out as micro-aggressions (such as consistently mispronouncing one’s name, confusing one person of color for another, or showing surprise that a person of color is the leader) and experience blatant racist behaviors, such as being the target of racial slurs. People of color also experience more negative outcomes related to hiring, promotions, terminations, and performance evaluations than their white peers. Many remain silent about these experiences for fear of not being believed and losing employment.
These experiences and outcomes are signs of an unhealthy work environment that devalues DEI, and we know that repeated exposure to an unhealthy workplace takes a physical and emotional toll on workers. It negatively impacts employees’ overall well-being—a problem often amplified by systemic disparities in access to health care.
By contrast, organizations that understand DEI and integrate it into every aspect of what they do are healthier and boast thriving staff communities. In our 36 years of organizational development and DEI consulting work at The Winter’s Group, we’ve seen how supporting individuals’ well-being fosters both individual and organizational resilience, and increases open-mindedness, acceptance, and innovation. We’ve learned that effective well-being strategies are tailored to an organization's values and vision. They also require that leaders model a personal commitment to change; that all staff participate; and that organizations make small shifts to policies, procedures, and practices that enhance well-being.