The movement to diversify workplaces is decades old. By now, there are ample data on efforts to boost inclusion—an equal sense of belonging for every employee, regardless of differences. Results are…mixed. NYU Law Professor Kenji Yoshino argues that many companies’ definition of diversity comes with strings attached.
In this masterclass, Yoshino turns to 20th-century sociologist Erving Goffman, who coined the term “covering” to describe how we all repress or modulate our identities in order to be accepted by the mainstream. Because identity and authenticity are important components of one’s self-worth, widespread efforts must be made to build bridges between people who feel the urge to cover. This is where companies striving to boost diversity and inclusion seriously need to step up their game.
What You'll Learn
How to balance narrative compassion with statistical compassion
The practice of "covering," and how to connect with individuals who feel the need to "cover" in the workplace
How to accept responsibility for diversity as a leader
The significance of employee affinity groups
1. Create Consensus: A Case Study in Reinforcing Qualitative Data with Quantitative Data
Persuasion in business differs from any other kind of persuasion only in scale. If you’re trying to influence policy, you need to generate compassion and buy-in. People need to understand and feel the full impact of the problem you’re trying to solve. Two persuasive approaches can help you here. They rely on gathering both qualitative and quantitative data.Go beyond anecdotePeople with narrative compassion are attuned to individual, human stories. (They value qualitative evidence most).People with statistical compassion are attuned to collective, numerical stories. (They value quantitative evidence most).Creating consensus requires both forms of compassion.Be rigorousWhen presenting evidence, understand that anecdote can draw people in, but it’s not enough to persuade everyone. How is one person’s anecdote representative of a broader cohort of people?When collecting evidence, use the insights gained from qualitative stories to craft questions for the broader cohort. Have I desig...
2. Diversity Does Not Mean Having to Choose Between Identity and Inclusion
3. Accept the Symbolic Role of Leadership
Most respondents in Kenji Yoshino’s study said that their leader’s demands that they cover were vastly more significant than the organizational culture’s demands that they cover. In this lesson, Yoshino makes a research-based case for why leaders must accept responsibility for leading diversity initiatives – or risk diminishing commitment, engagement and happiness among their employees..People who felt a covering demand in the workplace were50% less likely to feel they had opportunities51% less likely to feel a sense of commitmentLeadership vs. CultureJust over 50% of people who felt a covering demand felt the demand was imposed upon them by their leader.When leaders imposed the covering demand, about 50% of individuals said it diminished their sense of opportunity and commitment.When the covering demand was culturally imposed, people took it much less personally.This comparison suggests that leadership’s influence is very powerful.If leaders are trained properly, they can subs...
4. Develop an Action Plan
Since the late 1960’s, workplaces have seen wave after wave of diversity and inclusion initiatives. Sadly, many of these efforts have amounted to little more than ad campaigns––internal public service announcements about the benefits of tolerance and diversity.Kenji Yoshino’s research into covering provides a much more actionable solution. Having found that a significant number of people in every ethnic and gender group feel pressured to cover up some part of their identity at work, Yoshino has created a three-step framework for inclusion initiatives that really work.DiagnoseTry to name the ways in which you cover. Your employers can help by creating a safe space for these discussions.AnalyzeInterrogate your organization’s values by self-assessing for covering.If you feel that the pressure to cover goes against your company’s stated values, consider bringing this concern to the attention of someone with jurisdiction.Evaluate whether the covering demands at your workplace affec...
5. Explore Covering In-depth
6. Support Human Flourishing in the Workplace
The modern organization is increasingly becoming a Total Institution, that is, an organization where people not only work but socialize and engage in recreational activities. When the workplace asks for so much of each person’s time, its leaders need to be attentive in thinking about the entire human being, their human flourishing, and their happiness. In this lesson, Kenji Yoshino explores why individuals within organizations – and organizations by extension – won’t be able to flourish if they have to leave their authenticity at the door.The Total InstitutionAs more workplaces make more demands on the whole person, they must be more attentive to supporting the entire human being.Covering and Authenticity61% of individuals report covering in the workplace.60-73% of individuals who report some form of covering say it’s somewhat to extremely detrimental to their sense of self.
7. Understand the Concept of Covering
In this lesson, Kenji Yoshino describes the difference between passing and covering, using the example of Franklin D. Roosevelt to illustrate the distinction.Covering: In 1963, sociologist Erving Goffman coined the term “covering” to describe how even individuals with known stigmatized identities make a “great effort to keep the stigma from looming large.”Prevalence of Covering83% of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals79% of Blacks (African-Americans/Non-nationals)66% of Women45% of Straight, White MenEveryone fits within the inclusion paradigm of covering because everyone covers.Creating SolidarityWhen you acknowledge that you cover, too, you create a bridge with people who appear different from you on the surface.
8. Unify Employee Affinity Groups
In this lesson, Kenji Yoshino explores Robert Putnam’s concept of bonding and bridging capital for organizations. Whereas bonding capital is “the superglue that binds people together,” bridging capital is “the WD-40 that allows individuals to slide across groups.” Essentially, groups will bond internally but the individuals within them will not feel a sense of community with individuals in other groups unless these different groups are brought together through bridging activities.Bridging and Bonding CapitalBonding capital is created internal to a group of people who share the same background or interests.Bridging capital is created across organizations by bringing together seemingly disparate groups of people.Prevent balkanization by aligning bonding activities with bridging activities for Employee Affinity Groups.Teaching and Learning TogetherUse the covering analytic to crowdsource bonding capital.Turn these conversations into co-teaching moments. In so doing, you create bri...