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How to Own Your DEI Blunder

Sometimes your efforts to be inclusive and call out injustice will backfire, accidentally causing harm to others. Perhaps you use language that some find offensive or problematic, you neglect to name all of the groups that are suffering the injustice, or you make some other misstep you don’t recognize until someone brings it to your intention. What should you do? Start by owning the mistake. Listen and respond to what you hear, and take responsibility for what you said or did — or didn’t do. Don’t try to immediately fix it or explain it away. Acknowledge your responsibility, apologize, and commit to doing better in the future. Next, demonstrate genuine curiosity in better understanding the nature of your misstep. Ask questions about your word choices, and use this as an opportunity to better understand another culture or point of view. As a manager, you can create a regular dialogue on a variety of DEI topics to build a climate of psychological safety. You might even host AMAs or book guest speakers to give employees the opportunity to learn and share their own experiences and ideas. Throughout the process, lead by example. The more actively you demonstrate engagement with these issues, the more your team will follow suit. The path to creating and sustaining an inclusive culture will never be free of obstacles or mistakes. So own them and persist.

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