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Best Strategies for Leaders in a Diversity & Racism Crisis

How to respond and manage racism or discrimination related crisis? What true leaders do in a diversity and Inclusion incident in the workplace?

In a diverse digital world that we communicate with the latency of milliseconds, good news travels fast, and bad news travel even faster. When a crisis happens, leaders don’t have time to think and plan the responses. They have to add fast, lightning-fast I meant. It is no longer acceptable to wait for days to respond to a diversity, inclusion, or racism issue.

Same for a diversity related crisis to a diversity leader, especially anything related to racism and incidents associatin with it.

In this guide, we will show you strategic tactics you as a leader can leverage to respond to a diversity or racism related incident.


Leader from the Highest Level

A true leader should not avoid or run away from conflict or difficulties. If possible, have the highest level of leadership that you can possibly find to take the lead to respond to the issues. The level of leader demonstrates not only the big of an issue the organization considers it at, but also demonstrates the potential impact and seriousness of the situation that may affect the organization.

For example, having a Communication specialist to respond to the issue on a phone call is very different from an official statement from the COO or a Chief Diversity Officer of a company.

Speak truthfully in identifying the problem

Most people are not stupid. If someone is sugar-coating an issue, or making excuses off the bat, people know. The recommended approach here is to be authentic and speak truthfully about the seriousness of the issue.

Acknowledging the facts, and opportunities

In order to speak truthfully, the leader should begin with facts, and acknowledging the facts as they are presented to him. It is okay to say that they don’t have all the information, but it is important to seperate the facts and rumors, or things to be found out.

A leader sees crisis as an opportunity or a catalyst to bring positive impactful changes.

Self-Reflective, and humble to hear feedback

In addition, if the true leader acknowledge the issues and identify the opportunities, a crisis can be a good opportunity to hear feedback without a specific agenda. It provides your stakeholder an opportunity to tell you when they normally wouldn’t tell you.

Riding the wave. As a leader, it may be seen forward looking if you take the opportunity to stay humble and listen, and welcome feedback that is related to the issues and maybe more.

You have your attention on it anyways, why not?

Make SMART commitments

Proactive listening is great, but you need to take actions to correct the wrongs, or provide charities. The best strategy is to set SMART Committments.

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SMART Commitments in Diversity Crisis

  • Specific: Clearly defined goals that are unambiguous.
  • Measurable: Defined in numerical terms. They can be broken down into steps which are all also measurable.
  • Achievable: The goal should stretch the employee but it should also be able to be accomplished within the existing time, budget, environment, skills and tools available.
  • Realistics: Goals should reflect the employee’s role and should focus on things that are important to their job.
  • Timely: Setting deadlines gives a goal a sense of urgency and motivates employees to keep focused on the end result.

It takes some thinking, but as a leader I am sure you have done it in your daily job before.

Accept accountability internally, externally

Now, you have the objectives and you know exactly what you or your organization need to to, it is time for the senior diversity or organization leader to accept the accountability.

The accountability can be internal or external. Internal means a committment to executive and accomplsih the goals as set, including by providing the monetary and leadership support to your team internally.

External accountabilities include a commitment to your customers, your external stakeholders on how you will accomplish the SMART goals within your abilities.

Collaborate and Scale the Impact

Collaborate and ensure the new changes are scalable to provide wider impact.

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About the author

Susanne Ricee

Susanne Ricee is the Diversity and Inclusion Specialist and Researcher at Diversity for Social Impact. Sue brings over 15 years of HR and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion consultation experience.
Sue's previous experience includes Microsoft, Target, and Kraft. Sue is also the manager of Diversity Leadership Directory