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A 10-STEP GUIDE

How to maintain a predominantly white workplace

Leniece Flowers Brissett
By Leniece Flowers Brissett

Founder, Compass Talent Group

The many advantages of diverse, inclusive, and equitable organizations have been documented everywhere from the halls of Harvard Business School to the offices of McKinsey. There’s no shortage of research on the importance of a diverse workplace.

Ignore it.

Follow this 10-step guide, and despite the well-established market advantages of diverse companies, you will guarantee—no matter the sector or industry—that your workplace will remain predominantly white.

Step 1: When tackling problems within your company, try a multifaceted approach with realistic timelines and contingency plans. Obsessively quantify and track sales metrics, quarterly finance targets, and growth. Be thorough, aggressive and unrelenting. Enlist the best thought partners and strategy consultants to ensure the effectiveness of tackling this problem. Do this in all aspects of problem solving across teams, functions, and departments—unless the issue is related to diversity. If related to diversity and inclusion, take a one-dimensional, linear, short-term approach. Expect immediate results.

Step 2: Sponsor annual conferences, publish white papers, and revise core values that emphasize importance of diversity. Don’t set goals. Don’t create benchmarks. Don’t drive accountability. Talk. Talk. Talk. Insist on “trying” to diversify your workforce while your workforce diversity numbers stagnate or show a statistically insignificant increase. Most importantly, invest nothing tangible toward converting words into action. Join the more than 800 CEOs who have made a social media pledge that states they are “dedicated to having a diverse team and board,” but keep your workforce diversity numbers private so we can’t see if your promises are aligned with practice.

Step 3: Despite research from McKinsey, Deloitte, and Kapor Center for Social Impact that cites the benefits of a diverse workforce and board—including increased profitability, diversity of thought, a more comprehensive understanding of customers, and reduced groupthink—actively resist these efforts. Push back against formal diversity goals in hiring processes for employees, executives, and board members. Defend the majority white executive team with allusions to meritocracy, and double down on continuing the pattern of white men comprising an overwhelming majority of the highest level executives. For good measure, let board members serve unlimited terms. Rely on current board members to refer future board members (and c-suite executives) from their own homogeneous networks.

Step 4: Wait until your company is undergoing major restructuring, has committed a viral PR faux pas, or is in the throes of a self-inflicted crisis before you hire an executive of color whose main purpose is to buffer your company from bad “optics.” Better yet, only consider leaders of color when there’s a glass cliff and rest the responsibility of turning the declining company around on their shoulders (but don’t give them too much autonomy or actual decision-making power). When their herculean efforts inevitably fall short, use their failure as a cautionary case to undermine future diversity initiatives, stating you “tried” diversity but it didn’t work.

Step 5: In your media, online, and visual presence, ensure no more than one token person of color is featured, if any at all. In job descriptions, use vernacular like “ninja” and “rockstar” to attract more white men. Host team-building activities, “off sites” and networking events at locations that are exclusively white (with the exception of the help). Discourage or dismantle BRGs, ERGs, and affinity groups at the expense of inclusion. Do this to signal that only certain employees are welcome.

Step 6: When hiring, make sure candidates of color undergo a distinct selection process that no other candidates experience. Include additional requirements—not previously posted on the job description—that hold candidates of color to different, higher standards. Let your gut determine “culture fit” and who is extended an offer.

Step 7: Ignore the changing legal landscape in states like California, Delaware, Oregon, and Massachusetts and in cities like New Orleans, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that are seeking to close racial (and gender) pay inequity; compensate people of color less—especially women of color—for the same work by basing salary on pay history. Judge them for negotiating their lowballed salary.

Step 8: Don’t provide ongoing feedback. Instead withhold these opportunities for growth until consequential performance reviews. If an employee of color is vocal, characterize their contributions as “aggressive” or “hostile” in performance reviews. If they are introspective and process information internally, be sure to advise that they “need to lean in more”.

Step 9: Concentrate employees of color in administrative and support roles. Make sure they are engaged in “office housework” versus “glamour work” to steer them clear of promotion tracks that would accelerate their pathway to managerial and executive roles. When asked to be transparent about workforce data by racial demographics, flat out refuse or begrudgingly provide simplistic pie charts instead of raw numbers. If those attempts fail, deflect attention from abysmal racial diversity by touting gender diversity i.e. the increase in (white) women hired.

Step 10: Last but not least, when diversity efforts produce little to no return on investment, take comfort in scapegoating the talent pipeline. Resume business as usual.

Leniece Flowers Brissett is the founder of HR consultancy Compass Talent Group.