Resolve 8 Reasons People Are Resistant to DEI Training

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As the business world recognizes the importance and value of fostering inclusive environments, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training has become increasingly more prevalent in the workplace. However, it is not uncommon to encounter resistance to DEI training, whether that be from executive leadership or individual team members.  

“Many organizations get lost in the words related to diversity, many of which have taken on political and social meaning,” says Wisconsin School of Business Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer Binnu Palta Hill. The idea is to make DEI accessible and relatable to each individual.”  

Understanding the reasons behind resistance to DEI training is crucial for organizations and facilitators to address these concerns effectively and create successful DEI initiatives. 

1. Fear of Change

One of the primary reasons for resistance is the fear of change. People might be comfortable with the status quo and feel threatened by change in workplace dynamics or personal beliefs. 

2. Lack of Awareness 

Some individuals may lack awareness about the significance of DEI training. They may not fully understand how diversity and inclusion benefits others and themselves, the organization, and society as a whole.  

3. Perceived Threat to Privilege

DEI training often involves discussions about privilege and power dynamics. Those who enjoy certain privileges might perceive these discussions as an attack on their personal advantages, leading to resistance. They may also feel a sense of discomfort or unease realizing they possess certain privileges. 

4. Misconceptions and Stereotypes 

Misconceptions and stereotypes about DEI training can fuel resistance. People may have preconceived notions that DEI training is unnecessary, symbolic, or biased against certain groups. Or, maybe they experienced a poor DEI training experience in the past, and now associate all DEI training with that poor experience. 

5. Feeling Personally Attacked

When confronted with uncomfortable topics like unconscious bias, privilege, or discrimination, some individuals might become defensive. They may feel personally attacked or misunderstood. 

6. Inadequate Understanding of the Training’s Relevance 

Individuals may resist DEI training if they fail to see how it directly impacts their work or daily lives. Demonstrating the practical relevance and benefits of DEI training can help overcome this resistance. 

7. Fear of Making Mistakes 

During DEI training, people are often encouraged to examine their biases and challenge societal norms. Fear of making mistakes or saying something offensive can discourage individuals from engaging in discussions and activities. 

8. Resistance to Uncomfortable Conversations 

Encouraging open and honest discussions about sensitive topics is essential for diversity, equity, and inclusion. However, some individuals may feel discomfort addressing subjects such as race, gender, or privilege. Understanding this and addressing it from the start can lead to more willingness to openly converse. 

DEI Thrives with Collective Buy-in  

A compelling case has to be made for the organizational DEI journey in order to bring every individual along in the organization, says Binnu. DEI initiatives can only advance when there is a collective buy-in from all individuals in the organization. This has to be modeled at the top by leadership, with engagement from employees at the grassroots level.   

“It’s helpful to distinguish between visible diversity and invisible diversity, and to honor both. Invisible diversity (socio-economic status, sexual orientation, religion, etc.) impacts our personal identity whereas visible diversity (color, ethnicity, height, weight, etc.) impacts others’ first impressions and perceptions of us. These perceptions, in turn, determine how we expect others to behave,” Binnu says.   

“To make DEI accessible to every individual, regardless of their personal and social identities, we must appeal to the how inclusion and diversity impact them, their colleagues, their organization, and their community. It is only when DEI is personalized that behavior (allyship, advocacy and change) can occur,” she adds.  

Take the next step in empowering yourself and your organization by exploring a range of DEI professional development programs. These programs are crafted to provide you and your team with invaluable knowledge, skills, and strategies essential for embracing diversity, championing equity, and fostering inclusion. Discover how these learning opportunities can enrich your professional life and contribute to a more inclusive workplace culture.  

This blog was written with assistance from AI.