We Need A New Way to Talk About Engagement

Founded in 1998, the Social Justice Training Institute (SJTI) provides a forum for the development of social justice educators and practitioners to enhance their ability to create greater inclusion in educational settings.

It would behoove the federal government to incorporate more justice conversations into its never-ending quest for full engagement and inclusion of its employees and customers. With engagement at rock-bottom levels in the federal government and with most of that disengagement disproportionately impacting people of color and persons with disabilities, it is critical that the federal government see the connection of engagement to inclusion.

The SJTI has some suggestions:

Step 1
A workplace has to figure out its group memberships. This is important because the allocation of power in a federal bureaucracy can be traced to these group affiliations.

Step 2
An organization gradually splits into dominate and subordinate groups. It is essential for group members to discern which group they belong to.

Step 3
Organizational members internalize privilege from their dominate group memberships. Subordinate group representatives assume their standing of disempowerment. Both groups have to understand that over the tenure of their group associations, they acquire bias about their standing in the workplace.

Step 4
It is essential for the dominant group to own and explore the advantage of their dominant group partisanship.

Step 5
It is critical for the subordinate group to explore and heal from the conflict experienced in their disadvantaged state.

Step 6
It is crucial that authentic relationships are built both within and across group memberships.

Step 7
Both groups must acknowledge and own who they are and engage in continuous learning to deepen their self-awareness and skill development.

Step 8
It is critical that parties speak honestly as a part of courageous conversations that follow the inevitable conflict to come.

Disengagement through lack of inclusion is pervasive in the federal government. It impacts every employee and customer. I understand that most of us are doing the best we can to address the situation and we do not know all there is to know about this tragedy. It is not anyone’s particular fault that we have gotten to this point. However, we all have to accept responsibility.

It is obvious there are no quick fixes to this dilemma. There will be conflict and discomfort along the way. Yet, individuals and organization have the potential to grow and change. There is hope. Let’s hope we have not waited too late.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply