We’re always interested in human psychology and change, as well as the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
So when the Hampton-Alexander Review, a government-backed report to identify the number of women on FTSE 350 boards, revealed the top ten excuses given for not appointing more women, we were naturally intrigued to learn more.
When you hear excuses like “Most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board” or “I don’t think women fit comfortably into the board environment” you realise there’s a lot of work still to be done to overcome misconceptions and prejudices.
It’s a stark reminder that if people don’t want to change, they won’t. Much like political beliefs or social opinion, we humans cling onto what we know and it’s very hard to influence when minds are locked onto one perspective. If you’ve ever witnessed a Twitter argument, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.
Academic studies have shown that when groups of people with opposing views are encouraged to think critically, exploring topics supported by logic and evidence, far from creating convergence, the study completes with the two groups more certain of their original position and a greater polarisation of viewpoints emerge. Check out this article from Psychology Today, which explores the subject in more detail.
So if you are in charge of communicating change within your organisation, it’s worth remembering that personal opinions have the potential to be the biggest roadblock to success. Opinions aren’t necessarily built upon a logical, balanced base (in fact, they rarely are); more likely they are a combination of habit, instinct, emotion and unconscious bias driving people to think or act in a certain way. It’s an incredibly complex lock to unpick.
The good news is people can change. And history shows that attitudes do shift – although certain subjects move faster than others. Don’t underestimate the stark reality that important subjects – even ones as important as diversity within the workplace – can be difficult to land. To make the breakthrough, it’s worth exploring ways to make incremental shifts of opinions, through persuasive techniques, storytelling and key influencers. Over time, this creates a groundswell and the once majority viewpoint drifts further into the minority.
If you need help identifying your strategic IC approach to driving change in your business, get in touch or check out our Introduction to Change workshop