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On the surface, the word marginalized means to be pushed out to the edges — the opposite of inclusion. Of course, none of us would put others on the periphery deliberately. That would be straight-up discrimination and bullying.

So, how does marginalization actually happen in our workplace?
Marginalization occurs in the workplace when employees are treated as invisible as if their skills or talents are unnecessary.

Marginalization feels like…

  • Being told or treated like you don’t look/act/fit the part
  • Being given work that fits a reduced, stereotypical view of you, not who you really are and what you want to do in your career
  • Feeling you don’t match with, “the way things are done here”
  • Feeling like a fraud
  • Unfairly missing out on sponsorship or informal endorsement
  • The result here is that peers with innate characteristics of the in-group (being a white male, for example) get more access to opportunities
  • Having your ideas passed over, ignored or credit being given to someone else
    …or not being able to voice your ideas at all

Why are some groups marginalized?
Yes, inclusion is for all of us and diversity needs all of our perspectives in the mix to work. But some people get kicked back and passed over more than others.

A 2018 story in Harvard Business Review pointed out how women of color are marginalized in the workplace and asked to do “office housework” more frequently in comparison to their white counterparts. That kind of work rarely raises an employee’s profile and leads to promotions or any career success.

Social structures of power have been set up over history, sometimes by happenstance, but more often by brute force. Now, despite our best intentions to be fair, these structures persist as complex social patterns.

How to fix this at your workplace?
You might not be expecting to read this here: don’t jump aboard the D&I bandwagon because it seems like broadly the right thing to do.

When treated as due diligence exercises, diversity & inclusion approaches don’t work.

A general passion for social justice is a weak impetus until you put it into a concrete and personal context. To make sense of what you’re really doing, figure out your ‘why’.

  • What perspectives do you lack for your team’s work to be truly brilliant?
  • In what particular injustices in your community you really want to have a hand in solving?
  • What incenses you about our world when it lacks true diversity and inclusion?
  • Who in your workplace or personal life suffers from marginalization?

.     .     .

The bottom line?

Certain groups are marginalized and this blocks diversity and inclusion. Getting clued up on the issues and what you can do will improve your acquired diversity. But, first, figure out your personal ‘why’ for working towards true diversity and inclusion and its benefits.

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