How do you know whether your culture is really inclusive?

Measuring D&I initiatives is important for several reasons. Firstly, the planned initiatives need to be measured in terms of how they are specifically supported by the organisation’s culture. Secondly, the results need to be presented to senior executives and Boards in order to demonstrate progress and maintain commitment. However, this is where problems can arise, because D&I measures are typically implemented superficially. Deeper insights are more complex and difficult to extract (and track). Companies that benchmark predominantly use quantitative measures which offer very little depth in relation to culture. Not only are these metrics highly transient; they also provide only surface level indicators of the success. Beneath this surface level analysis lies the truth – differentiated and often individual fragmented perspectives that cannot be explored through the use of surveys.

Popular D&I indexes, used by a number of organisations, adopt largely quantitative methodologies that are problematic; these can actually undermine the development of D&I cultural change by reinforcing positive, albeit false, assumptions. Such indexes while helpful, use mostly surface level measures that specifically capture simple statistics, like percentages of cohort workforce compositions and pay gap statistics, as well as using a range of questions with standard “yes or no” answers and or numeric responses. Such approaches lack thick description and the question of depth should arise, but often does not.

The oversimplification of D&I data capture for an index could be considered problematic, because it can portray an organisation favourably, while deeper analysis may reveal a very different story concerning D&I within the organisation. Measuring D&I through quantitative surveys can also, rather ironically, silence minorities, creating an unspoken culture of dissent. Minorities, who have less power to challenge issues, will often avoid drawing attention to their workplace experiences. It is, therefore, critical to ensure, when analysing and benchmarking organisational D&I, that deeper, emic approaches are utilised.

Those responsible for D&I, including HR Managers, D&I Practitioners and People and Culture Specialists, need a way of capturing what is going on within their organisation and move beyond the seductive allure of simplified, quantitative measures of D&I. As Professor Joanne Martin, put it: ‘no one can capture the complexity and richness of a culture in a sequence of numbers.’

While we prefer the ethnographic approach to assist organisations develop their D&I framework or strategy, we also understand that organisations do not yet fully appreciate the reasons as to why the ethnographic research approach is essential to understanding D&I culture in organisations. The answer is this: ethnography ascertains what is going on in the organisation at the deepest level.

Further, the development of cultural inclusiveness is not a linear progression towards some enlightened state; yet, many of the approaches which we have observed view it from a fully integrated perspective, with limited depth of sub-cultural analysis. Again, this is due to the oversimplified methods of assessment.

We encourage those organisations genuinely wishing to become more diverse and inclusive to think deeply about utilising simplistic benchmarking tools and to consider what is not being presented to you in these measures, who is being silenced, and who, if any of us, benefits from this superficial and oversimplified data capture.


Organisational Culture: Mapping the Terrain, Foundations for Organisational Science Series, 2002, p.12. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

About the author

T.A. Kiaos Ph.D (c) is an Organisational Anthropologist specialising in critical ethnographic research methods. T.A. Kiaos' research spans several interconnected topics: the underlying systems of cultural and sub-cultural meaning, managerial ideology and normative control, with a particularly strong focus on how these interconnected phenomena affect marginal cohorts in the workplace.


It’s time we talked about unconscious bias training. There has been a fair bit of debate lately about the benefit or otherwise of this popular approach to addressing our biases. There are many companies who have implemented the training; Starbucks in the US is probably a well-known and widely cited example of an organisation that orchestrated a national wide closure of their stores to conduct unconscious bias training after two African American males were arrested in the store for no apparent reason.

Of all the companies we know who have taken part in unconscious bias training, not one of them are able to tell us, with absolute confidence, that it has resulted in sustainable behavioural change. And when we ask if leaders have become more insightful through the application of the key learnings, often there is an uncomfortable silence that follows. Not many are able to communicate to us how, under what circumstances, when and where they have become "more conscious" in their working lives.

In our view, the debate over whether unconscious bias training is a good or bad idea is not the right debate. What we should be asking instead is - does the unconscious bias training form part of a comprehensive strategy? If the unconscious bias training is just one item on a shopping list of initiatives being systematically rolled out, then the chances are that it will fail, or even worse, result in resistance and backlash.

Often, when people become aware of their biases it can lead to a defensive reaction because this newly acquired information does not fit with an individual’s version of themselves. Creating an environment of safety and trust is therefore imperative. Equally imperative is the capability of the consultants who educate around this topic and how this initiative is integrated into the overall D&I strategy.

Not only is unconscious bias training difficult to comprehend for those newer to heuristics, cementing the learnings into one's consciousness requires a high level of self-awareness to begin with. Organisations need to think about rolling out these initiatives, and the timing of these initiatives, i.e., when will my workforce be most receptive to accepting this new information and integrate this knowledge in their day to day life for long-term behavioural change?

Solutions to such complex problems are usually not as simple as rolling out one-off trainings. Rather, such complex problems require, firstly, deep level analysis and a carefully thought through strategy which often requires a multitude of approaches to address both structural and cultural issues. Whilst unconscious bias training may form one of the recommendations, it should never be carried out in isolation of, or without due consideration for the organisational culture.

In summary, unconscious bias training should provide the opportunity for employees to reflect on how their biases impact themselves and others, and of course share practical tools to allow them to engage differently when they are back in the workplace.

About the author

T.A. Kiaos Ph.D (c) is an Organisational Anthropologist specialising in critical ethnographic research methods. T.A. Kiaos' research spans several interconnected topics: the underlying systems of cultural and sub-cultural meaning, managerial ideology and normative control, with a particularly strong focus on how these interconnected phenomena affect marginal cohorts in the workplace.


We have all come across narcissists, psychopaths and Machiavellians in the workplace, perhaps without recognising it at the time. The problem with personality disorders, particularly with antisocial personality disorder, is that red flags are often undetected by others in the workplace until significant damage has already been done. It is especially hard to detect candidates with these particular personality disorders during the interview stage, because the dark side tendencies often create favourable first impressions.

For the last 25 years, research in psychopathy has largely been driven by Professor Robert Hare of British Columbia University. Hare explains that psychopathy is a clinical construct characterised by a cluster of features and behaviours. His book, Without Conscience, explains this research in detail. I highly recommend this book.

Hare developed the widely used instrument for the assessment of psychopathy, the PCL-R (Psychopathy Checklist – Revised), which is underpinned by four correlated factors or dimensions:

  • Interpersonal – glibness/superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, conning /manipulative

  • Affective – lack of remorse or guilt, shallow affect, callous/lack of empathy, failure to accept responsibility for actions

  • Lifestyle – need for stimulation/proneness to boredom, parasitic lifestyle, lack of realistic long-term goals, impulsive and irresponsibility

  • Antisocial – poor behavioural controls, early behaviour problems, juvenile delinquency, revocation of conditional release, criminal versatility.

Other characteristics & behavioural attributes of dark triad personalities

When examined broadly, Machiavellianism, narcissism and the psychopathic personality disorder show extreme manifestations of unconscious insecurities. Ironically, egocentricity is a key psychopathic trait. When interactions are analysed closely, it becomes clear that the ego helps to present a mask of normality and further helps to conceal the deep insecurities buried within.

Individuals with these personality disorders usually score high on characteristics associated with dominance and control. They are often found in high risk-taking professions and tend to find temptations difficult to refuse, to have poor impulse control and to gravitate towards excitement seeking opportunities.

Pathological lying is a key characteristic of psychopathy. In fact, psychopaths tend to lie even in circumstances where it is more logical and favourable to tell the truth. Narcissists and psychopathic individuals are very good at knowing what other people are thinking, but are poor at understanding the feelings of others. They lack empathy. To the untrained lay person, psychopaths are generally considered puzzling in nature.

My thoughts are that psychopathy has manifested from generations of untreated trauma. This has genetically changed brain structure and functionality somewhat, particularly in the pre-frontal cortex. The brain has the ability to block out emotion for self-protection. Perhaps this personality disorder is the long-term result of untreated abnormal defense mechanisms – untreated over generations.

B-Scan-360 – Testing for psychopathy in the workplace

One of the major difficulties in conducting research on corporate psychopathy is the absence of a validated instrument adapted to business settings. Because the PCL-R relies on the expertise of the assessor, typically a psychologist or psychiatrist, it is rarely used for organisational research. Nonetheless, organisations definitely need a tool for measuring psychopathy, especially when hiring new CEOs or senior leaders. Thankfully, instruments are now in development that will allow employers to screen for psychopathic behaviours in the corporate environment, in order to identify individuals with these personality constructs more easily during the interview stage.

In a recent PCL-R study of 203 upper-level managers, researchers found that psychopathy – particularly its interpersonal components – was positively associated with in-house company ratings of charisma/presentation style, including creativity, strategic thinking and communication skills, and negatively associated with ratings of responsibility/performance, including being a team player, leadership and management skills, and overall accomplishments.

The authors concluded that the ability to charm, manipulate and deceive others allowed psychopathic leaders to achieve apparent success in their careers, despite negative performance ratings and behaviours potentially harmful to the corporation.

Based on experience using the PCL-R in organisational settings and their work with business personnel, Babiak and Hare developed the B-Scan-360, an instrument for rating psychopathic-related features in corporate workplaces.

The B-Scan-360 is a rating scale in which various members of an organisation rate their co-workers, that is, their supervisors, peers and subordinates, using the same four-factor scale as the PCL-R, including:

  • Manipulative/Unethical – uses charm and deceit to manipulate others

  • Callous/Insensitive – cold disregard for the feelings of others

  • Unreliable/Unfocused – lacks commitment to goals and objectives

  • Intimidating/Aggressive – generally intimidating in the workplace.

Psychopaths do well in certain risk-taking professions. On the whole, however, they tend to cause far more damage to corporate business than any positive they deliver in return. Incalculable damage to colleagues and other business associates, including harassment of the opposite sex, has often been experienced and reported.


Babiak, P., & Hare, R. D. (2006). Snakes in suits: When psychopaths go to work. New York, NY: Regan Books/Harper Collins.

Cleckley, H. (1941). The mask of sanity: An attempt to reinterpret the so-called psychopathic personality. Oxford, England: Mosby.

Mathieu, C., Neumann, C., Babiak, P., & Hare, R. (2014). ‘Corporate Psychopathy and the Full-Range Leadership Model’. Assessment 22(10).1177/1073191114545490.

About the author

T.A. Kiaos Ph.D (c) is an Organisational Anthropologist specialising in critical ethnographic research methods. T.A. Kiaos' research spans several interconnected topics: the underlying systems of cultural and sub-cultural meaning, managerial ideology and normative control, with a particularly strong focus on how these interconnected phenomena affect marginal cohorts in the workplace.