Belonging 2

Creating team and workplace environments that are diverse, equitable, inclusive, and foster feelings of belonging for all constituents is an ongoing process.  We learn about other perspectives and experiences as we encounter them.  So we strive to be open to learning, improving, and changing our opinions.  It’s OK to never feel “finished” and to feel humbled by blind spots even when we’re doing our best.  At the very least, we must become more agile about change.

Being open is a good first step.  But to really create change and build environments in which all feel included, we need to pick up actionable ideas and develop as allies.  Active allies utilize their credibility to create a more inclusive workplace where everyone can thrive.  For example, vocally supporting the work of colleagues from underrepresented groups to boost those colleagues’ standing and reputation.  Catlin (2019) suggests among other great ideas, the following:

Be an Ambassador for Change: The responsibility of allies is to take actions that will have lasting, beneficial effects on systems.

  • When lending a hand to a single person, step back to look for systemic changes that will benefit many.
  • Suggest new processes that will change ingrained behaviors and create a more inclusive culture.
  • Pay attention to your motivations: Focus on what will authentically support marginalized people long-term rather than what will make you feel or look good.

Listen, Believe, Learn.  Being an effective ally includes the less forceful but equally important activities of listening to alternate perspectives, accepting the information that people from underrepresented groups share, and learning from their stories and one’s own mistakes.

  • Be vulnerable and honest when you open discussions with colleagues who have less power and privilege than you.
  • Resist the urge to get defensive.
  • Take action when you see or hear about bigotry, harassment, or discrimination.  Be an upstander, not a bystander.
  • Accept that yes, prejudice does exist in your own workplace or on your team.
  • Attend an event where diversity will be the topic of discussion.
  • Seek out media, including podcasts and blogs, by people who are different from you.

Make Events Welcoming.  Too many professional events can be inhospitable for members of underrepresented groups.  Here are some ways to turn the tide:

  • Make events inclusive.  Feature diverse voices and create and enforce a code of conduct, and practice full accessibility.
  • Before attending or agreeing to speak at an event, be sure there will be a code of conduct as well as other support for attendees from underrepresented groups.
  • If you see a lineup of speakers that is homogeneous, contact the organizers and suggest better.
  • Look out for microaggressions (or worse) during an event, and take action when you spot them.

Watch Your Words.  How we spend our day is how we spend our life.  It may seem like word choice is a minor issue, but it’s one that accumulates over time. 

  • Be aware and respectful of pronouns and gendered language.  Lead by example in how you use (or don’t use) both.
  • Create a safe place for people in your workplace, industry, or team to ask questions and discuss problematic language.
  • Be aware that some terms you think are innocuous may be harmful to others.  If you mess up, apologize.

This excerpt was adapted from \”Better Allies: Everyday Actions to Create Inclusive, Engaging Workplaces.\” Copyright Karen Catlin 2019. It has been republished here with permission.

Weekly Challenge:  Find a podcast or blog that speaks to DEI, belonging in the workplace, or workplace allies.

Supporting Your Success!