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DEI & Impacts on Mental Health


Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a term used to define policies and programs that encourage the representation and participation of diverse groups. This includes people of different races and ethnicities, genders, abilities and disabilities, cultures, religions, ages, and sexual orientations, and persons with diverse backgrounds, experiences, skills, and expertise.


For clarification, here are the definitions:


Diversity: Diversity refers to who’s at work. People who are recruited, hired, and promoted by your business. In other words, diversity represents a range of traits and experiences in your workforce. These characteristics include gender, gender identity, race, physical ability, religion, age, and socioeconomic status. Think of it as the full spectrum of human demographic differences.


Equity: Equity promotes impartiality, justice, and fairness within the processes, procedures, and distribution of resources by institutions or systems. For your business, it refers to giving everyone what they need to succeed by increasing access, resources, and opportunities for all, especially for those underrepresented and historically disadvantaged.


Inclusion: Inclusion ensures that diverse individuals tangibly feel welcome. It is reflected in how many diverse individuals can participate fully in your business’s decision-making processes and development opportunities. Your workforce may be diverse but lacks inclusivity if employees do not feel safe, welcomed, and valued.


DEI is viewed in a variety of ways in the twenty-first century. As mentioned, existing categories such as gender, ethnic origin, religious beliefs, age groups, sexual orientation, community stratification, and socioeconomic position contribute to an individual’s biased view of the world. Where do individuals from diverse backgrounds get together to form a union? It is their place of employment. When a partnership based on the above-listed categories happens in a workplace, it negatively impacts the success and progress of such a firm. Managers and business owners must ensure cooperation and team setup, including people from diverse categories.

In Employment:


Race


Prejudice against people based on their skin color is an instance of racial discrimination that continues today. Blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately underrepresented in United States employment, particularly among employees with a university degree or higher. Due to their skin color and history of working as slaves to whites throughout colonial periods, people of color are portrayed as hardworking. As a result, they are subjected to physical exploitation and emotional scarring.


Unfortunately, individuals having darker skin tones are constantly viewed suspiciously, and their insecurity prevents them from building successful professional careers in foreign places.


Gender


People who feel comfortable speaking openly about their gender bias at work may face discrimination for certain positions and rewards. Regarding family life, certain groups may be compelled to work unconventional hours due to the widespread belief that they lack families. Every organization must guarantee that everyone is afforded equal chances and rights and that no discrimination is based on their sexual orientation.


Numerous incidents of discrimination based on gender, color, sexual orientation, age, and religion have been documented. Women are not considered qualified for technical jobs, particularly in some nations and continents such as Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Due to the male counterpart’s image of women as frail beings burdened with family care obligations, their roles and engagement have been constrained.


Additionally, the risk of sexual assault is always present. A woman who is vocal and outgoing is viewed as ‘easy’ and frequently becomes a victim of professional harassment. Women in desperate need of work and money are frequently exploited to meet their basic requirements.


In general, obstacles are already waiting in line if a woman is determined enough to follow her ambitions. A woman might be abused on several levels - financial, social, emotional, or physical. It is time for us to begin viewing women through the perspective of equity rather than as objects or lesser creatures whose sole purpose is to satisfy male gratification and prepare sandwiches.


DEI in our society must prioritize independence from prejudice and stereotyping. Women should be excluded from this list, as every culture contains major and influential female figures, from kings to scientists to businesspeople. Women’s capacities and ingenuity have been demonstrated by their positions and accomplishments in our society. Diversity is defined as accepting women on an equal footing and awakening their ideals and aspirations in the same way as their male peers.


Disability


Certain businesses will not hire individuals who have physical deformities. If they do, they are often viewed with extreme pity and are assumed to be depressed or resentful about themselves. Regarding accepting diversity, the phrase ‘differently-abled’ is more inclusive than using “disabled” for this group of people. There is a concept that even if a person is not equal in every way to others, he or she possesses fundamentally unique talents and should be compensated equally in any field in which they are comfortable working.


Additionally, individuals with such characteristics shall not be subjected to physical or mental harassment due to their inability to do specified activities. Employee and pension benefits are the primary means through which the differently-abled may enjoy inclusion without bias.


The Impact: Whether in a prominent corporation or small workplace, a sense of inclusion is of prime importance. Let us try to understand from an employee’s perspective – how he or she would prefer the working environment to be?


It shouldn’t matter what gender, race, or religion one belongs to – the work atmosphere should make everyone feel welcomed. The organization’s H.R. department must encourage a friendly workplace where everyone feels belonging. No one should feel left out or out of place while working in the organization.


When employees feel at ease and work in a friendly atmosphere, they work more productively and efficiently, feeling comfortable and happy at the workplace. Now, it is no rocket science we iterate that the organization’s success pivots on employees’ efforts.


When the workforce doesn’t feel welcome, they cannot perform at their optimum capabilities. They would feel uncomfortable, ultimately impacting their performance and mental health. When employees are not happy or comfortable in a workplace, it also affects the employee retention ratio.


The workplace has the power to connect all of us in an authentic and meaningful way. Our relationships with colleagues and other workplace stakeholders ground this powerful connection. Everything from formal team meetings to brainstorming sessions to passing conversations in the hallways can stimulate creativity and our ability to polish ideas through our relationships. When we intentionally design our workplace to foster a greater sense of team morale and camaraderie, we have the ability to disrupt the hazards of loneliness and unleash our organization’s potential.


Unfortunately, the workplace is not a panacea to combat the contagion of isolation. In fact, the need to belong at work is often overlooked by executives and other business leaders.


When employees feel disconnected from their colleagues, they often feel the need to veil important aspects of their authentic selves in order to protect their job security.


Covering or limiting our full self-expression on the job, combined with minority stress, creates significant barriers for underrepresented groups in the workplace. Minority stress describes the chronically high levels of stress endured by members of these groups in society, often caused by interpersonal or organizational microaggressions and discrimination. Microaggressions are brief, everyday interactions that send denigrating messages to certain persons because of their group membership, while workplace discrimination often involves overt actions based on prejudice that unfairly treats a person differently or punishes them for an aspect of their identity. The psychological costs of these dynamics in the workplace shave off years of the life expectancy of employees from underrepresented groups, especially employees of color.


Stereotype threat, or the situation where people believe they are at risk of confirming stereotypes about the identity groups they belong to, exacerbates the levels of minority stress underrepresented groups in the workplace endure. Underrepresented groups are far more likely to endure the negative impacts of minority stress. As a result, they are more likely to cover aspects of their identity that aren’t visible when negative stereotypes about their identity groups are present in the workplace.


For example, suppose a gay employee who is not out to his colleagues overhears a fellow employee saying negative things about LGBTQ people. In that case, he experiences a microaggression and will likely endure higher levels of minority stress. Such stress triggers his instinct to censor important aspects about himself and his family to protect his job security.


While minority stress does not impact the most enfranchised employees, the pressure to conform to the workplace’s culture does take its toll on them. For example, a straight, white, cisgender male executive being considered for a significant promotion decides to cover his family association. He and his spouse are expecting a new child in a few months, and he refrains from sharing this exciting news for fear that the promotion won’t happen. He makes this decision because he remembered how a former colleague was overlooked for a similar promotion because his spouse was expecting a baby. Imagine the stress of withholding such life-changing news from the people you spend most of your day with and how it would adversely impact your job performance.


Business leaders should pay specific attention to even small acts of rejection, depreciative humor, and belittling in the workplace. While they can be hard to notice initially, particularly as they build up, they are deadly for the organization. When someone is consistently rejected and unappreciated in the workplace, the negative impact on their personal, emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical well-being is significant. In contrast, the work environment is negatively impacted even beyond that one individual.


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