How middle managers can help make a more equitable workplace

A more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace doesn’t have to be a dream. A new report from Wharton shows how companies can make it a reality with the help of middle managers, who ultimately shape the environment and daily experiences of employees.

One person stands before a table with four other people, they are writing on a whiteboard while the other four people take notes and hold tablets.
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“Improving Workplace Culture Through Evidence-based Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Practices” is one of the most encompassing studies of its kind, drawing on surveys and interviews with hundreds of employees across 15 different industries in the U.S. to gauge their perceptions about where they work. The report examines the complex relationship between DEI practices and outcomes, and it fills in the gaps with recommendations to help companies address their shortcomings. The authors said they want business leaders to use the information to create a culture where everyone thrives.

“We’re playing at the intersection of not just acknowledging that people feel negatively or positively, but [identifying] what strategies shift that experience,” says Wharton management professor Stephanie Creary, a diversity and identity scholar who is lead author of the report. “These practices, when put in place, are positively shaping the outcomes for everyone. The caveat is that they are even more helpful for people in the minority. [Implementing them] lifts all boats, but it especially lifts the boats of people of color because it tells you that non-DEI related practices currently in place aren’t sufficient to lift their boats.”

Wharton management professor Nancy Rothbard, who co-authored the report, said the specific recommendations for managers—such as highlighting the accomplishments of all team members and not just their favorites—are meant to uncover implicit bias and “make visible the invisible” at work.

“The goal was to find actionable processes that help people in organizations,” says Rothbard, who like Creary has spent years studying effective workplace policies. “A lot of my research in the diversity space is documenting what the issues are, but this is really focused on solutions.”

Read more at Knowledge@Wharton.