5 Conversation Starters to Help a Leader Buy-In to Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace

Creating a more inclusive work environment

Q: What can you do if you are asked by your boss to create a more inclusive environment in your workplace, and while your boss is supportive, they just don’t fully buy in and don’t model the behaviors consistent with the environment that you’re trying to create?

A: This is an ongoing conversation for future webinars, virtual institutes, and my Master Class for Inclusion Practitioners. Click here to learn more about this program and watch my events page to see what’s coming up next.

Diversity in the workplace is paramount

Have you been asked by a superior to organize a diversity initiative only to be met by a lukewarm response from superiors or others from whom buy-in is imperative? Diversity in the workplace is paramount, but when a colleague’s lack of buy-in has the power to demobilize the entire mission, you can find yourself on the wrong end of a bridge to nowhere.

Here are five conversation starters you can have with your manager or leader to help stimulate their buy-in:

“Tell me more about yourself & identities.”

Genuinely get to know your supervisor. When you take the time to learn about your supervisor, and not just for the purpose of this initiative, they are more likely to not just hear what you have to say but also are more likely to desire to maintain their relationship with you once they feel you are open to learning about who they are as people.

“Why is this important to you?”

Ask them why a diversity initiative/racial justice initiative is important to them and really listen to what they have to say without judgment. They may not be coming from an ideal motive, but it’s extremely helpful to understand why this initiative was started in the first place and the various sources of their commitment to achieve these goals.

“What does an ideal, inclusive organization look like?”

This question is very important because an ideal organization looks different to different people. In order to achieve the goal of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, management and individual contributors have to be on the same page and agree on what that looks like. Your supervisor, for example, may not feel that the “ideal” is too far off from what is already in place. It’s important to understand what each stakeholder defines as success.

“What’s the current state?”

Hopefully, the answer to this question is similar for stakeholders at all levels. Even if managers and individual contributors don’t have the same experiences, they may both notice certain tensions regarding diversity in the workplace.

“Let’s work together.”

Depending on your manager’s involvement, you may experience resistance when asking them to partner with you to change the workplace dynamics regarding race and other areas of diversity. This is still one of the more powerful statements you can make, and it allows your manager to recognize they are not alone and can count on your partnership and support to improve the workplace. Emphasize that the realization of their vision for an inclusive environment will only be possible working together; you mobilize and empower everyone to infuse equity and inclusion into everything they do.

A few points to keep in mind as you do this:

Negotiation with the leader is critical. There is no forcing or pressuring a leader to buy-in. If an initiative achieves results using this tactic the results will be short-lived. Find out their key priorities for the organization and position diversity and inclusion efforts as part of achieving their overall goals.

Admit your part. Many leaders are afraid to be “found out” and seen as less competent around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Honestly share your own journey as a change agent as you talk about times you have made mistakes, not known enough, and said and done things you later regretted. Developing an authentic, open partnership with leaders is a critical step to creating meaningful change.

Earn the right to be heard. The most fruitful change will come once all parties understand that they have each other’s best interest at heart. Listen deeply to your leaders and be willing to gently offer alternative ideas or perspectives that may help them show up as more competent over time. Invest in this relationship to help them succeed as you partner to create greater equity and inclusion in the organization.

Not there yet?
Just starting or want to propose a change in diversity in your workplace?

Have the Conversation 
Identify key stakeholders and bring the conversation of diversity and inclusion to their attention.

Diversity Council
Propose the idea of a forming a Diversity Council that meets regularly to discuss important issues and develops recommendations for creating a more inclusive, racially just organization.

Want to listen to the entire Interrupting Racism webinar and the rest of the questions and answers? No problem, just click here.



  • Latisha

    Superb blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

    I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost
    on everything. Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there
    that I’m totally overwhelmed .. Any suggestions?

    Appreciate it!

  • ot

    I blog to share insights, tool and strategies in hopes that more people will create greater inclusion in everything they do. So I’d start by getting clear on your intentions for writing. I’d wonder why someone would pay for your blog when there are so many accessible, free options available. I wonder if you might want to create a significant following and be of service to start, and then explore other options. All the best, Kathy

  • Leroy Landseer

    It is really a great and helpful piece of information. I am satisfied that you simply shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

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