The Complaining-Diversity Connection

Complaining. Most people do it. That includes me, although I’ve managed to curtail it a bit as I’ve gotten older.

I recently read an article by someone who decided to go without complaining for a month. With the goal of being more mindful and self-aware, writer Leah Shapiro and 1,000 other people signed up for the Complaint Restraint project to eliminate negative statements and create a more positive life.

As I read about Shapiro’s experience, I couldn’t help but make connections to the world of strategic diversity management.

For instance, the article talked about how natural it is to complain. Evolution has primed us to focus on the negative in order to survive, Shapiro writes. It’s a self-defense against things that might harm us.

Flip to the diversity lens. Some people see minorities as dangerous. A black man, for instance, is often seen in society as a potential threat. Police action bears this out. As a result, black men are often prematurely and overly persecuted by the criminal justice system.

This article also said complaining comes with a cost. The price for all that whining is stress. When you complain — or when you hear someone else complain — your brain releases stress hormones that impair cognitive functions such as your ability to solve problems.

Again, flip the lens. In discussions of diversity and the role history still plays in workplace behavior today, how often have you heard some variation of, “Why are you still talking about that? It happened so long ago. Things are different now.”

Of course, many minorities vociferously push back against that last point. But is one reason diversity progress is so painfully slow because the powers that be think we are simply complaining?

That would explain why so many don’t want to talk about diversity. Who wants the stress? Modern life is stressful enough. But if you don’t want to discuss it because hearing about it is stressful, try living it.