How to Avoid Tokenism in the Workplace

intercultural communication in the workplace

Tokenism in the workplace refers to the representation of individuals who belong to a subgroup in the workplace. It is a practice where a company or organization includes a minimal number of individuals from marginalized groups as a form of diversity, without any real effort to promote an inclusive work environment.

Tokenism in the workplace can be towards ethnic minorities or towards women. In fact, this research shows that if a company increases the inclusion of women in the company the success of the company proportionally increases.

In other words, tokenism is when a company only has a few people from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities, but they are not given equal opportunities, treatment, or support as their non-diverse counterparts. 

Tokenism has become a prevalent issue in modern-day workplaces, especially as companies strive to present a diverse image to the public. However, tokenism can have harmful effects on both the individual token employees and the company as a whole.

Both Company and Staff are Affected

For individual workers, pretentiousness can lead to feelings of isolation and exclusion. They may be the only person in the department of their own race, gender, or ethnicity, which leads to a lack of belonging and support towards the company. They may also face additional challenges, such as pressure to represent their entire group, attacks, and prejudices from colleagues. This can lead to decreased job satisfaction, decreased enthusiasm for work, and burnout.  

For the company, tokenism can lead to a lack of plurality in leadership and decision-making positions. In addition, it may be possible for the marginal structure to make decisions and move forward on its own within the company. This causes internal dichotomies over corporate innovation and market competitiveness, resulting in a negative reputation for the company in its market.  

How to Avoid Tokenism in the Workplace

So, how can companies avoid tokenism and promote true diversity and inclusion in the workplace? Here are a few steps they can take: 

1-Evaluate the company culture: Companies should evaluate their current culture and policies to identify biases and barriers that prevent marginalized groups from advancing within the organization. It also requires honest self-reflection and a willingness to change. 

2-Develop diversity and inclusion initiatives: Companies can create programs and initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This may include training employees, developing employee resource groups, and implementing mentoring programs for underrepresented groups. To learn more on how to enhance diversity and inclusion in the workplace please check our previous blog post.

3- Increase representation at all levels: Focus should be placed on increasing the presence of marginalized groups at all levels, including companies, leadership, and decision-making positions. This can be done through target hiring and promotion rules.  

4-Foster a supportive work environment: Companies need to create a work environment where all employees, regardless of background, feel valued and supported. This rule is open to micro-attacks, supportive of marginalized groups, and encourages to work. 

5. Hold group leaders accountable for in-group unity: Companies must hold their leaders responsible for promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Leaders should ensure that the employees in a project or working group are united by ignoring the differences within the group. This is helpful in setting specific goals and metrics and maintaining steady progress.  


In conclusion, tokenism in the workplace is a harmful practice that needs to be addressed. Companies need to take an active approach to promote true diversity and inclusion in the workplace. By creating a supportive work environment, increasing representation at all levels, and holding leaders accountable, companies can create a workplace that truly values and respects diversity. 

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