A Beginner’s Guide To Identity Work And Why You Need To Understand It To Promote Diversity & Inclusion

Today, I want to talk about one an interesting concept that is at the heart of why individuals both seek out and avoid employee resource groups. I want to talk about identity work. Once we go through it, you’re going to realise that it’s something that everyone does but in this episode it will become clear that some people have to do it more than others. And this has a cost. In todays show I’m going to discuss several things including

  • Identity work, why you’re probably already doing it.
  • The burden that identity work places on members of minority groups
  • Why identity work means some that people will avoid employee resource groups and much much more.

Here’s some of what I share in the show:

Everyone Performs Identity Work

I explain the concept of Identity Work and explain why it’s something that is relevant for all of us:

“Everyone does it, if you’ve got a telephone voice, if the vocabulary you use at work is different to when you’re at home. Then there’s argument to say that you’re working identity, you’re engaged in identity work” 

Minority Groups are Motivated to Engage in Identity Work

I explain how members of minority groups may use identity work as a strategy to counter negative stereotypes in the workplace:

“Individuals put in a lot of effort to play down parts of their identity in the workplace. This means individuals police themselves in a way to disconfirm negative stereotypes within the workplace”

Identity Work May Mean People Avoid Employee Resource Groups

I outline why employee resource groups may be unattractive to individuals who are heavily engaged in identity work:

“The nature of identity work means that people who may benefit from joining an employee resource group may be motivated to avoid them if there is a perception that they are exclusive”

Show notes

Here are some selected links to for the resources and reports I discuss in the episode.

Professor Devon Carbado 

Acting White?: Rethinking Race in Post-Racial America

Bicultural Experience in the Legal Profession: A Developmental Network Approach

The Core Functions of An Employee Resource Group

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