“Invite An Attorney Of Another Race To Coffee Or Lunch!”: A Diversity Memo Gone Wrong

April 28, 2014  |  

A law firm, which has remained unnamed, issued a memo to its employees urging them to interact with “diverse hires” — also known as minorities — which is perfectly fine in its intent. However, there’s a difference between building a relationship and whatever is being suggested here.

Suggestions include a 20-minute chat with diverse (women or minority) attorneys, an invitation to lunch and a non-work related event. But here’s the kicker: The attorneys must “record their time” with said “diverse hire” to verify their compliance, Jezebel reports.

The corporation, while taking noble steps for a push in workplace inclusiveness, inadvertently frames “diverse” employees as an odd group that needn’t be alienated despite their differences. The memo, according to Jezebel, reinforces the stereotype that minorities are “somehow strange and different creatures who need to be considered as such.”

Can you just imagine? A new “diverse” employee pours her heart out, after being asked about her career path, only to be greeted with, “Okay! Stop talking.That’s 20 minutes — just what I needed.” The co-worker puts away his stopwatch, whips out a clipboard, records the “diversity session” and walks away.

Imagine being asked to a “non-work related event”, thinking it as a genuine invitation, but your colleague says, “Hope you’re enjoying the party, but I’m going to need you to sign right here to show that I’ve been hanging out with a diverse hire, thanks!”

“This corporate memo really nails the disconnect between human relations and corporate culture…[T]heir understanding of how to welcome diversity in the workplace is a clumsy and insulting attempt at best and completely offensive and out of touch with reality at worst,” Jezebel wrote.

Surely the firm can revise its initiatives so that engaging with minorities doesn’t feel like a job responsibility?

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