Over the last week and a half or so, I watched a controversy unfold on social media and it really highlighted the importance of diversity, inclusion, and accountability. Without going into details about the controversy, as it’s not my story to tell, I want to talk about how those three principles factor in to creating wellness programs.
Diversity & Inclusion
No matter how well-intentioned and “woke” you are, the fact is that you don’t know what you don’t know. For example, a male manager who has never struggled with his weight or disordered eating in his life, may not recognize how problematic and harmful running an office weight loss challenge may be. A wellness program coordinator who has always been straight sized, might not recognize that a group Zumba class may make employees in larger bodies self-conscious. A nutritionist with limited experience outside their own culture, might not realize they’re dismissing important cultural staple foods as “unhealthy.”
Including diverse voices in the planning process for your wellness program helps ensure that employees don’t feel excluded, uncomfortable, or offended. That’s just one part of the equation, however. The other part is ensuring that your workplace environment is open and safe such that all voices can express their concerns with a proposed program without fear of ridicule, being written off, or retaliation. Part 1 is people and part 2 is culture. Neither is optional.
Intent vs Impact
Mistakes happen. It’s a fact of life whenever humans are involved. Even with the best intentions, we may accidentally offend or hurt someone. When that happens, intent doesn’t matter because intent doesn’t erase impact.
In the aforementioned social media controversy, there has been 2 responses. One was those who acknowledged they caused harm although they didn’t mean to, educated themselves, apologized, and vowed to educate others and do better. The other response was to offer an “I’m sorry, but” – to double down on their actions because they didn’t mean to cause harm.
Guess which one of these is the correct response.
If you guessed the former, I agree.
There may come a time when you implement a wellness program that adversely impacts someone in some way despite all of your efforts and best intentions. When that happens, you have a responsibility to hold yourself accountable, own the mistake, and make it right.
Making it right might look like changing the program. It might look like involving the harmed party in future planning. It might look like canceling the program altogether.
Try as we might, we can’t foresee every situation. But we can do our best to avoid issues by including diverse voices in our decision making and taking responsibility when things don’t go as planned.