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The Biggest Mistake Companies Make In Their Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Program

Sarah Nicole Nadler

In the past couple of years, diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace have become hot topics. DEI is a buzzword you've probably heard... sometimes accompanied by other new terms like "microaggressions" and "unconscious bias".

If you are a business owner, it's likely you come into contact every day with people of ages, races and ethnicities, abilities and disabilities, genders, religions, cultures and sexual orientations that are different than yours.

As a business coach and co-founder of a human rights movement that spans 13 countries, I have seen both sides of the debate for-and-against accepting DEI training as it is taught.

Being a business owner gives you enormous responsibility, both legally and ethically, in the lives of your employees, clients, and your impact on society around you.

But it also puts you in a precarious position if something goes wrong.

According to, businesses with high employee engagement resulting from improved DEI can be up to 21 percent more profitable than comparable companies without.

Plus, one of the primary purposes of DEI training is that it also reduces occurrences of workplace harassment, which is a problem that costs businesses 7.6 million dollars a year.

Another statistic from Global Diversity Practice shows how more diverse teams make better decisions 87 percent of the time.

So, while most DEI training attempts to empower employers and small business owners, there is a big mistake being exacerbated by some of these courses and coaches that needs to be talked about.

Have you ever been told that you have "unconscious bias"? Have you ever been made to feel blamed for something that happened decades or centuries ago, by some long-dead ancestor?

These mistakes in DEI training are what have made these courses & coaches the laughing stock of social media, and certainly do not improve the willingness of business owners or employees to be more diverse, equitable or inclusive!

This week on The Six Figure Biz Show I'm sharing with you the BIGGEST mistakes most business owners make when educating their team on diversity, equity and inclusion, so you can create a positive environment for your employees and clients alike.

So, as always, let’s pull this problem apart. 

The Biggest Mistake Companies Make In Their Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Program - Episode 72

FREE HR Guide to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Get access to my favorite HR Guide To Diversity, Equity & Inclusion with step-by-step instructions sent right to your home or office. 

With every episode of The Six Figure Biz, I like to empower you with a POWERFUL free resource that goes with the episode which you can implement right away to create some of the same results, if not better, in your business.

This week, since we are talking about human rights & DEI, I put together an HR Toolkit so you know step-by-step how to implement this strategy.

After going through this freebie you will be able to save hours of time putting together a DEI training for your employees or team.

You can access the online portal of human rights education right away by clicking on the button above 👆

What Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Really Mean

In the words of Voltaire:

“If you wish to converse with me, define your terms.”

One of the simplest mistakes business owners make is forgetting that DEI is a new subject, and like any new subject it has new and unfamiliar terminology that must be defined to be understood.  

The most common words and phrases include:

Diversity - the practice or quality of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc.

Equity - the quality of being fair and impartial. An equitable business is one in which all can participate and prosper. The goals of equity must be to create conditions that allow all to reach their full potential.

Inclusion - the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of other minority groups.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are new ideas, and like all new ideas they are fought for many different reasons. But the basic premise is simple: DEI is an extension of basic human rights - an idea that is much older.

The human condition makes it difficult at times to gain agreement on what rights people have simply because they are human.

Until 150 years ago, women in the United States were considered the property of their male guardian.

Until 1865, the enslavement of black people was common practice in the United States. And although slavery is now illegal, the prejudices against women and people of color still exist.

These deep-rooted beliefs in the inferiority of others exist because of humanity's long history of attempts to dominate or nullify one another.

To overcome tens of thousands of years of cruelty and ingrained behavior, human rights were developed:

The Biggest Mistake

The subject of DEI in business is really the subject of how to get along well with others. The original tool developed by humanity for this purpose was "good manners".

And to this day, all DEI training attempts to lay the groundwork for a new agreement between employees, or companies and their clients or potential clients on what "good manners" really are.

After more than a decade of delivering seminars, workshops and executive coaching on DEI in organizations large and small, I have identified the error.

Their biggest mistake is not understanding the basis of manners, but instead introducing complexities like "unconscious bias" or blaming members of one race for the nebulous "crime" of having been born part of an "oppressive" race.

All of this steers away from the simplicity that is good manners.

If we all acted with good manners toward one another, or understood how to do so - diversity, equity and inclusion would follow naturally.

What Are Manners?

Manners are an extension of emotional intelligence (EQ) which you could define as, "the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle the emotional state of others with empathy."

One of the original experts on good manners, Emily Post says,

"Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use."

So improving the diversity, equity and inclusion in your workplace begins by putting a conscious effort into understanding and raising your awareness of the emotional state of those around you!

Only when you put your attention and focus outward onto others can you take the first steps toward having better manners, and thereby improve DEI within your company.

But let's take this one step further.

If you remember, earlier I talked about the importance of other people. Throughout history, humankind have tried to dominate and nullify each other by finding reasons, whether real or imagined, to say that people of one race or ethnicity, belief or background, gender or sexual orientation are "unworthy" of good manners or basic human rights.

To have a workplace where diversity, equity and inclusion exist, we need only accomplish two things:

1) Gain the agreement of every employee, manager and owner or board director on the 30 basic human rights, and

2) Consciously make an effort to have good manners toward every human being connected in any way with the business

So what do good manners consist of?

In an article entitled "Manners", Hubbard said it best:

"People have value and are important. Big or small they are important.

If you know that, you are halfway home with good manners."

So good manners ALWAYS includes treating the other person as though they, their ideas, hopes, dreams and ambitions, are important.

But there is one final piece to this puzzle and it comes from the fact that the modern world is a melting pot of many different cultures.

When In Rome...

Traditional thinking in HR has been based on the democratic idea that majority rules. This led some companies to marginalize minorities or treat them as though they were unimportant (see above).

We can and must do better!

Remember the definition of inclusion - your role as a small business owner or HR manager is to make ALL employees, clients and members of the community who come into contact with your business feel included.

That must mean that there is a need to understand the belief systems, cultures, and ways of thinking that exist in the area your business will be working.

How can you make anyone feel important (good manners) if you don't understand what they consider to be "proper conduct".

When I go into a business for the first time as a coach, I approach the first few minutes, hours or days as a learning experience.

I am much more interested in understanding than in being understood.

By observation, asking questions, and practicing active listening, I come to understand the culture of that business quickly, and can not only help decision makers make important changes but also mesh well and easily with the employees and executives myself.

In Summary

There are many ways DEI training can improve your business, profit margin, and impact on the world around you.

By avoiding these common errors and ensuring that whatever you do - you are respecting the human rights of others and treating all employees, clients and your community with good manners, you will see a response in the happiness and satisfaction of those around you.

If you would like to hold a virtual or in-person seminar or educational series on DEI for your company, reach out to me:

About the Author

Sarah Nicole Nadler is a business + balance coach for 6 & 7-figure business owners who want to build a dream team & profitable biz so they can spend more time on the things that matter. A digital nomad, she currently calls Tampa Bay, Florida home.