Woke-Faux-Ness is the tendency of leaders to spill ink about social justice, fairness, and respect but avoid putting these values into practice.
Freelance writer Arwa Mahdawi inspired me with her recent article on “woke-washing.”
The say-do gap can create cynicism and internal conflict, which heightens employee disengagement, presenteeism, and turnover. These silent revenue killers are among the highest costs businesses and nonprofits face.
You know about these problems and their consequences.
You are doing your best to avoid them (otherwise, you would have unsubscribed from my list long ago).
At the same time, you are probably tired of the divisive name-calling, blanket condemnations, and facile, self-punitive hype that Columbia’s John McWhorter calls a new racism.
On the positive side of the ledger, most high-functioning people grow uneasy about cognitive dissonance and take steps to reduce the say-do gap.
Behavior change tends to follow some form of what the military calls the OODA loop: Observe-Orient-Decide-Act.
Observation inspires thought. Thought sparks words, and words spur action.
Here are some positive steps you can take.
1. Address affinity bias. Affinity bias is the unconscious tendency to gravitate toward people who look, think, and act like you.
This tendency is a part of what Daniel Kahneman calls System 1 thinking, which is governed by the amygdala section of the brain that houses our fight or flight instincts.
Yes, everybody has an affinity bias.
No, it does not mean you are a closet bigot.
Those who convert affinity bias into a conscious attitudinal bias that claims superiority over another are bigots.
Once you know about the human tendency toward affinity bias, you can engage your System 2 brain – the analytical mind – to address it. Now, you know about it.
2. Walk the Talk. Model the behavior you want to promote and hold people accountable.
You know the importance of setting the example, and that “Do as I say not as I do” is not acceptable.
“Treat people exactly how I treat people” is what you want to promote. It starts with respect – the commitment to treating everyone with equal dignity.
The temptation can be keen to overlook or rationalize disrespectful behavior by high-performers, but holding them accountable (especially if they look, act, or think like you) is vital because of their outsized impact on the organization.
One way to check the levels of mutual respect in your organization is to see how people treat your newest- and lowest-paid employees, custodial staff, and other contracted support staff.
Also, check how people leave your common areas, especially the bathrooms.
People who respect one another tend not to leave messes for others to clean-up.
3. Set-up people for success. A problem with too many diversity programs is the lack of focus on putting people into positions where they are most likely to thrive.
This problem is part of the reason the first-rung tends to be the hardest to climb for non-majority employees.
Here are some ways to set-up people for success:
- Align work with people’s natural inclinations and strengths. They’ll be 2X to 3X more productive, will enjoy the work more, and those factors are likely to increase their longevity and advancement.
- Coach people to be the best version of themselves and avoid subconsciously encouraging them to be clones of you (the mini-me syndrome is another example of affinity bias).
- Measure how confident your most vulnerable employees feel to bring their best and most authentic selves to work each day.
Our eBook, “Build your Winning Team,” takes you step-by-step to set-up people for success. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send it to you right away.
What’s your top takeaway?
Let me know with providing a comment below or by email.
P.S. Are you ready for your NSASO session?
NSASO means No-Sales, Action-Steps-Only. I set aside time each week for these calls. We’ll discuss:
- Your goals
- The obstacles you want to overcome
- 2-3 action steps to solve problems and get results