Notes from Şeydâ: Invisible work

Making your work visible is an important part of how we profile ourselves professionally these days. A quick glance at LinkedIn will tell you who got a new job or promotion, which organizations won awards, and who’s publishing or presenting and where. Sometimes, it can feel like the only way to mark work getting done is to produce a share-worthy result, and preferably an impressive one.

There’s a catch is you’re committed to diversity work, however. Diversity work isn’t for sharing, it’s for experiencing.

What do I mean by that? The hard part of diversity work is often internal work, whether it’s internal to an individual or an organization. It’s below the surface and invisible while fundamentally shifting the ground on which all other work is done.

Personal diversity work is hard work that has the potential to change the way you see every interaction, every image, every text, every situation you find yourself in, permanently. There is no going back from deep awareness of the urgency of diversity work and the acceptance of the work required of every individual to make a real difference. The results are a given once the crucial internal work is done. So, if you’re showing results, are you showing your work? The work happened long before there were any results to share.

Organizations also have tremendous work to do internally before they can mark shifts in their visible, sustainable diversity. That includes gaining acknowledgement of the urgency of diversity work at all levels of the organization, creating and enforcing new policies with regards to hiring, training, and employment, not to mention adjust all external communication to reflect core values that may have shifted. Again, by the time there is a result to share, a tremendous amount of work has already been done.

That work will rarely be acknowledged in public and cannot always be acknowledged at all. One could argue that sharing the work dilutes the work because it’s a too-quick path to a public pat on the back. Share your process and you might get the false impression that you are done. One of the keys to diversity work is that it is deeply personal. Values shifts always are.

By the time public acknowledgement comes, the awards, the press, the attention, the hardest work has already been done. Let’s take the Theater Boulevard as an example. It’s a theater festival in Den Bosch that decided to make their event more inclusive. They hired an inclusion trainer (me). They introduced quiet days for patrons who need environments with less sensory stimulation. They planned walking routes for patrons who are visually challenged and made sure to have sign language interpreters for deaf patrons. By the time they won the accessibility award for their inclusive event, the hard work inside the organization had been done.

The core of diversity work is not well represented by the big win. Instead, it’s the conviction that the foundation upon which we build our relationships and events and organizations must change. These foundational changes are amplified through subtle and pervasive shifts that make change visible. Sustainable, visible results come after, never before.

So, keep doing your good work. Celebrate and share your wins. Perhaps the most powerful impact your win will have is viral, infecting others with the idea that they, too, should focus on diversity work.

In the meantime, focus on yourself and the people you work with and influence. Your work is worthwhile and vitally important, whether it’s publicly shareable or not.

Photo credits: @ally_photo

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