UK employees fear losing their jobs due to EDI programmes

Almost a third (31%) of UK employees fear they will lose their job if their organisation becomes more diverse and inclusive, according to new research by Dynata.

The report, Global Consumer Trends: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace, surveyed 12,000 employees and employers across 11 countries about their attitudes to EDI initiatives in their workplace.

Diversity experts say that the research offers important lessons for employers.

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Anja Skvortsova, managing director of Audeliss, told HR magazine: “While diversity and inclusion go hand in hand, one thing we see often is businesses and their leaders ticking the 'diversity' box, but then neglecting to actively work towards inclusivity.

“What the research shows us is that a large proportion of business leaders are struggling with the notion that their actions do have consequences [and] the notion that equal opportunities for everyone will somehow be to their detriment, although we know with the latter that inclusive companies at their core allow everyone to thrive.”

Josie Kinge, director of equality and diversity and associate professor of human resource management at Norwich Business School, told HR magazine that fear is indicative of a culture problem.

“For EDI efforts to work, such as unconscious bias training or allyship programmes, staff have to be open to change their attitudes and be willing to look closely at themselves,” said Kinge.

“The organisation also needs to have a culture that is supportive and makes people feel comfortable speaking out. I think in the current climate there is a fear of saying the wrong thing.”

The report also found that over half (52%) of senior leaders worried that their organisation's EDI efforts would cost them their job, compared with 33% of middle managers and just 20% of non-managers.

“There will not be sustainable change if people feel forced through targets or even worse fear of losing their jobs if they don’t perform against diversity targets or values that they are supposed to be demonstrating,” said Kinge.

“Senior managers are likely to feel this pressure more strongly than non-managers as a group.”

The survey also uncovered a gender disparity, men (35%) were more likely than women (26%) to fear losing their job.

Kinge said this can occur when EDI initiatives focus on supporting disadvantaged groups rather than changing organisational culture.

“Could it be that men are more likely to feel that EDI initiatives and practices are not for their benefit?” she added.

Skvortsova said that where organisations identify discriminatory or outdated views, they need to present it to staff as a positive opportunity to grow and learn.

“Often the fear associated with not knowing how to have uncomfortable conversations and a lack of accessibility to educational resources that lead to change is an impediment that can be overcome with D&I training and a commitment from leadership to steer the business towards inclusion,” he said.

“This can be an essential first step to ensure everyone in the business is included and is inclusive in their actions.”

The research also revealed that microaggressions were more common for ethnic minorities in the UK (51%) than in the US (46%), Canada (42%) and Australia (35%).

While 41% of workers say they have heard others in their workplace unintentionally say hurtful things.

“Businesses must prioritise creating a working environment that is accepting of all, as well as one that works hard to ensure that if mistakes are made, they are only made once,” added Skvortsova.