Anti-bias and diversity are a top priority in your recruitment strategy, so you’ve taken steps to diversify your workplace and you’ve learned about your own biases. Your job is not done just yet! It’s time to become a workplace ally.
An ally is someone who uses their privilege (social influence based on characteristics like your appearance or position in society) to advocate for equity and parity, without seeking praise or reward. The practice of allyship is an imperative managerial skill that can help you retain employees and sustain a more inclusive and diverse work environment. And even if you happen to be in the minority in your particular region, it does not excuse you from providing allyship to others.
Here is what workplace allyship actually looks like:
Using your positions of power to mentor others
If you are in a position of influence – whether in terms of seniority, as a member of the majority demographic, or considered an “exception” as the underrepresented minority – do you notice if someone has less access in the workplace? For instance, do you notice that certain people speak up more in meetings while others find themselves interrupted frequently? Do you decide not to get involved because you may feel that in order to succeed, it will have to be at the expense of someone else?
Empower leaders to mentor people who don’t look like them. If you are in the majority, mentor someone in the minority. If you are a man, mentor a woman. Advocate for people who don’t look like you by disrupting behaviour that undermine the status quo. In the instance where you may notice that certain team members speak louder and more frequently than others, call attention to the fact that another team member did not have the chance to finish speaking and ask that this person have the chance to be heard.
Gracefully receiving feedback
When I speak about my own perspective (particularly as it relates to race, ethnicity, or culture) I am looking for active listening, empathy, and solidarity. But it rarely happens.
We all make mistakes. Intentionally or not, creating a situation where your colleagues are uncomfortable through a slip of the tongue, a joke, or a jab erodes trust and a sense of safety in the workplace. Similarly, microaggressions – such as commenting on a Black woman’s natural hair or probing a co-worker about her headscarf – are never okay to those receiving them.
In either case, it takes immense courage to stand up to inappropriate behaviour. The most respectful way to respond to feedback is to be receptive. Don’t jump to your own defence or rationalize your sense of humour. Leave space for your colleagues to speak their truth, rather than assume you know what they are going to say next. Whether you were the perpetrator or a bystander, always ask what you can do to help equalize the balance of power, take the constructive criticism, and don’t make the same mistake twice.
Understanding cultural differences
Leave room for colleagues to have different perspectives on beliefs that you might find to be fundamental and find ways to bridge the gap.
It is also important to educate yourself. Your Nigerian and Caribbean colleagues may not share all of the same cultural dimensions or experiences. Your Japanese colleague may not be offended by the same topics as your Chinese colleague.
Consistently and humbly practicing inclusion
Remove the results-driven mindset from your expectations around diversity and inclusion and normalize a growth mindset. Understand that no one has all the answers, and that inclusion is a journey that never truly ends.
To keep consistency in your inclusion journey, join or start an Employee Resource Group specifically for Allyship, where members of the dominant social group can convene to process their experiences with their personal anti-bas work and discuss ways to be more inclusive.
In order to keep the talent that has been so painstakingly recruited, we need to take steps to cultivate an environment that is globally inclusive and receptive to growth. CultureWizard’s Global Inclusion Course is here to help solidify the workplace inclusion skills needed to maintain the diversity of your team.