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What Happens When Trends Cycle Through the Corporate Psyche

When does a life no longer matter?

Do social movements have an expiration date?

Or better yet, if an injustice is occurring and no one is around to hashtag it and put it on Instagram - does it really even exist?

Over the last several years, we've witnessed Corporate Activism become a "thing" - and then it disappeared. Does this mean the activism was successful and the social ills at the forefront were healed? No. It just means many corporations ceased much of their activism.

Unfortunately, for the people and causes that need advocates with large platforms and influence, activism became a trend.

And what do we know about trends? They go out of fashion; they die.

But the difference between a multi-coloured shell suit or acid-washed jeans or a black square and public displays of allyship is that there are lives tied to those social movement trends, and when their causes go quiet in the public discourse, their voices and cries for justice become silenced as well, leaving them alone fighting a war against disparity, structural barriers, and discrimination.

Is it wrong that corporations experience or engage in trends?

Not at all.

Management trends themselves are a good example. Micromanaging was, and still is, a popular management style. Still, countless articles, studies, and personal accounts have been singing the praises of a more flexible, adult, and project/work-based approach. People like Dan Price have become leaders against corporate greed, unfair wages, and elevated corporate culture, showing us that it's okay for some trends, or antiquated and unchallenged ideals, to phase out.

Or we can look at workplace design and how it's changed over the years from crammed communal spaces to cubicles, coworking spaces, and hybrid and remote options.

Change can be good. Trying new things and adopting popular trends can be good.

However, adopting trends tied to social justice or social-political movements can have a more unexpected (and dangerous) impact. The good is not only undone, but it becomes a disrespectful smack-in-the-face sign that the efforts were only for show in the first place.

Virtue signalling with no virtue.

It becomes a step backward.

This move in the opposite direction is evident in the fact that many DEI officers have been fired in recent years.

Post-George Floyd, a pivotal event that set the world on fire, from 2019 to 2020, job postings for diversity, inclusion, and belonging positions rose by 56.3% on Indeed and by 168.9% from 2019 to 2022 on LinkedIn. A stark decline we're witnessing now is that one in three DEI professionals have lost their roles over the last twelve months alone.

Cecil Howard, a DEI consultant and former chief diversity officer at the University of South Florida, sums this up perfectly.

"The honeymoon is over. Right after George Floyd's killing, everybody who didn't have a diversity office quickly created a diversity office, and a few years later, they started realizing, 'We checked the box and things are a little quieter now.'"

But we must always remember that diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, human decency and fairness, and respect for others are not "boxes to check," but virtues and ideals we live by and believe in.

Author: Jamal Robinson

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