Research has shown that talking about the business case for diversity can backfire on employers. Job seekers from marginalized groups interpret the justification of diversity in terms of corporate profit or stock performance, for example, as a sign that an organization would value them less and stereotype them more. “The way organizations talk about diversity tells you a little bit about whether it's an absolute commitment,” Oriane Georgeac, now at Boston University's Questrom School of Business, told us last year, “or rather one that is contingent on the world changing, priorities changing, or on how the firm is doing.”

A new study in the Academy of Management Journal poses a similar question about existing employees: How does the way organizations talk about their diversity commitments affect workers’ willingness to buy into those efforts? The authors found that the most common framing leaders use is also the one least likely to get workers on board—and that the most effective framing is one most leaders shy away from.

We recently spoke with co-author Lisa Leslie, a professor of management and organizations at NYU’s Stern School of Business, about how organizations can improve their messaging around diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to improve worker buy-in. Here are key takeaways from our conversation:

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