New Study Suggests Ways of Overcoming Institutional Resistance to Workplace Diversity Initiatives

Summary of:

Bui, Q. and Eguaikhide, O., “Institutional resistance to managing workplace diversity” (2019). Intercultural Communication in Business Environment, International Conference of LIGS University, 26-32.

Background & Theory:

Nowadays, organizations must spend time organizing work environments that are inclusive for all employees. Especially for organizations in the initial steps of working towards this goal, there can be institutional resistance to building a more inclusive work atmosphere. Deciding not to value diversity and inclusion can jeopardize organizations to legal liability, workplace conflict, and other detrimental barriers to success. This being said, management must find ways of building diverse and inclusive work environments while tackling possible institutional resistance. This literature review uses past research to suggest methods of tackling institutional resistance to managing workplace diversity.

Question(s):

Research was compiled to answer the following questions:

    1. What are common institutional resistances to workplace diversity initiatives?
    2. How can organizations combat institutional resistance to incorporating diversity initiatives in the workplace?

Methods:

This study is primarily a literature review of past studies. Researchers reviewed 29 past studies and supporting materials on managing workplace diversity initiatives. Additionally, three case studies were completed to analyze specific organizations and their approach to diversity and equal employment opportunity in the workplace.

Results:

Past research points to several examples of institutional resistances that can arise during the implementation of inclusive practices. First, some organizations may implement diversity and inclusion practices as only a symbolic gesture. This is a form of institutional resistance because implementing inclusive policies and creating an inclusive culture is a continuous, long-term effort. Symbolic showcases of diversity and inclusion are not substantive.

Another example of institutional resistance to implementing inclusive practices is a lack of alignment to a larger corporate goal. Simply stated, sometimes organizations don’t fully take diversity and inclusion seriously. When some departments do implement inclusive practices and other departments do not, majority employees often do not respond favorably to the new changes, leaving minorities sitting in continued anger and disappointment. Additionally, employees often do not understand the value of inclusive practices and diverse hiring. Combined with little organizational commitment to inclusive practices, institutional resistance to these practices is formed.

To combat institutional resistance to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, studies point to five primary strategies:

First, past studies have shown that improved communication between employees and departments leads to higher job satisfaction, productivity, and employee engagement. Additionally, improved communication allows for employees to understand each other better and more easily accept the differences of others.

Second, studies point to benefits in developing an organizational mindset of learning as being helpful to overcoming resistance to diversity and inclusion initiatives. Placing value on the practice of learning and implementing workplace groups that allow for the facilitation of learning from each other can help employees see the value in different perspectives. From a management perspective, having managers that promote learning and development is crucial to helping promote inclusive practices.

Third, a company culture that is not compatible with the values of diversity and inclusion will have little success in implementing inclusive practices. Establishing change at the cultural level of an organization is critical for minimizing resistance to a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Fourth, hiring with equal employment opportunity is obviously very important. Giving everyone an equal chance to be hired and climb the corporate ladder incorporates diversity and inclusion at an internal level.

Fifth, it is important that diversity and inclusion initiatives be engrained into the corporate strategic plan. Doing so promotes a unified stance and reduces resistance to inclusive practices. Research also suggests that establishing a diversity and inclusion department or leader can help orient the organizational diversity strategic action plan to their goals.

What We Can Learn:

Looking over this research, we can take away the following key insight:

  • To combat institutional resistance to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, studies point to improving communication, developing an organizational mindset of learning, working to change the company culture, maintaining equal employment opportunity, and integrating diversity and inclusion initiatives into the organization’s corporate goals with a strategic action plan.

Final Takeaways

For Consultants: Mitigating institutional resistance to workplace diversity and inclusion initiatives requires unified goals and clear communication. Conflict resolution training effectively contributes to unification and communication.

For Everyone: Workplace diversity and inclusion initiatives require an organizational-wide approach. It may be helpful to consider hiring a specialized consultant at your organization if diversity and inclusion initiatives are not currently well established.