Diversity is key to innovation, it is key to workplace culture and study after study reinforces the link between diversity and improved company financial performance (McKinsey study, 2017).
But, what does diversity in the workplace mean? Well, diversity in the workplace means employing people of different ages, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, cultural backgrounds, and education levels, and best of all, diversity opens the conversation to new, unexplored, and different ideas.
However, the woke culture push that we are seeing across the corporate world is now sacrificing real "diversity of thought" in the workplace and creating a bigger and bigger gap between what people are willing to say in private and what people are willing to say in public.
Wokeness, that should be a strong driver of diversity and inclusion, is becoming its enemy.
What is a woke culture and why is it harmful to real diversity and inclusion? A woke culture is one where e.g. an employer attempts to institutionalize a uniform system of thought, expression, and behavior. Anyone who is not willing to embrace these concepts quickly becomes a “persona non grata” in the organization and anyone who has the nerve to speak out against these legitimized system of thought is likely to soon find themselves exited from the company.
This paradigm even has a name: “Woke Washing”
What was originally driven by a desire to encourage responsible behavior has now propelled into a cocktail of conformist thinking, fear, frustration and lack of respect. This in turn seems to have led to a lack of awareness and understanding of others, essentially limiting diversity and inclusiveness.
In dialogues with our clients and candidates, we are experiencing an increasing number of people who express that they feel unable to talk about their life experiences, beliefs or values for fear of stepping on someone’s toes.
In the workplace, rather than contributing, workers are withdrawing potentially resulting in unchallenged and poor-quality decision-making. In the worst of cases even bullying may take place where: “If you don’t agree with me and our uniform system of thought, you are wrong and less worthy.”
Is that really what we want from our workplaces?
In our view, woke culture must never dictate workplace culture for one simple reason - diversity and inclusion suffers.