Diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. I think my views on D&I are not as liberal as many of my friends and coworkers. For a workplace that follows traditional corporate standards, I think designing a diverse environment is usually an overall net positive as long as it’s not performed through the lens of a rigid framework.
So, I think D&I is nice to have in a traditional workplace, but I’m not the type of person to push the idea on everyone I know. In the WordPress space, it’s common to see certain individuals go on and on (literally everyday) about diversity, underrepresentation, marginalization, and how white people should always keep their “privilege” in check (or something like that).
It makes me wonder if these people are taking the whole diversity thing a little seriously. Really, I don’t think talking about how marginalized and underrepresented you are every single day is good for your mental health. I’ll be honest – as someone who is apart of one of these so called marginalized and underrepresented groups, I’ve never come across a negative workplace scenario that was caused by my race or ethnicity. Does this mean I’m “privileged”, or is the whole D&I conversation just turned up to 11 right now?
My views on D&I are the way they are because I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a necessity for every single workplace environment. D&I is not a requirement to be productive, and it’s not a requirement to build amazing products. Hear me out before you call me privileged or racist.
Working in blockchain is amazing. It’s what I spend all my free time on, and lack of purposeful D&I is one of the reasons why I love it so much. I’ve never met most of my colleagues in the blockchain space, and I don’t even know most of their names. We mostly communicate through Telegram, Slack, and occasional audio calls, and we get work done.
In this context, there is no D&I mental overhead because it’s completely abstracted out of the equation. It’s near-impossible to distinguish someone’s race from text-based communication. Since people usually prefer to stay anonymous in blockchain, “real” profile pictures are pretty rare. I’ve been working in blockchain for three years now. In that time, one guy who I thought was Asian ended up being a white dude from Amsterdam. Similarly, someone else who I thought was a white guy living in the USA ended up being an Asian guy living in the Philippines. Best of all, no one (including me) gives a s*** about any of this. People are judged solely based on their work ethic and the skills they bring to the table, and that’s how it should be.
Abstracting away D&I completely is, of course, only possible in an anonymous or pseudo-anonymous work environment. So, this begs the question whether this kind of work environment is superior to the traditional corporate workplace where a huge amount of emphasis is placed on learning more about the backgrounds of your colleagues. Interestingly enough, I feel closer to my colleagues in blockchain than my colleagues at my day job. This makes me wonder whether concepts like HR protocols, fear of coming off as “privileged”, and other sorts of virtue signaling constructs actually prevent colleagues from forming strong friendships in an efficient manner.
It’ll be interesting to see if “anonymity in the workplace” spreads to other industries over the coming years. For this kind of workplace environment to become commonplace, there needs to be a huge shift in how people think about and design corporate structures. I think DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) are a step in the right direction.
The idea here is instead of motivating people to work via a “corporate ladder” backed by accepted rules and behaviors, give people a direct stake in the organization via a token and design the governance system in a way that incentivizes everyone to act in a productive manner.
I think the D&I trend over the past few years is the latest version of “social glue” that allows traditional companies to continue functioning with respect to current events. Social glue is important because the governance structure of most companies is not set up in a way that fairly rewards those who contribute the most, and punishes those who don’t do a good job – this is because social norms take precedence over everything else in a non-anonymous environment. Thus in order to keep a company together, tools like D&I need to be introduced to prevent the social fabric from tearing.
My grand thesis is that as we evolve into a society that truly values privacy, the inefficiencies of traditional corporate structures will become more and more apparent. At the same time, I think decentralized and pseudo-anonymous work will become more popular.
Let’s see what happens.