Inclusive workplaces are a must have, not just a nice to have
By nature, allies don’t know what they don’t know about the lived experiences of people different from themselves. And that’s okay. As a white DEI practitioner, I am well aware that I will never fully understand the experiences of people of color. That means I have to flex my ally muscles, demonstrate empathy and curiosity, and have the confidence to lean into candid conversations.
Practice patience with yourself first, and gain confidence in building cultures of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Inclusive workplaces have candid conversations.
Allies talk about things that are hard. Because we’re never going to be more diverse, if we don’t push against the status quo. A candid conversation can build trust and strengthen a relationship long-term when framed properly. Consider this model:
- Define: This involves setting the stage for the conversation. It requires bravery and courage. People need to know why this is important – the business case, the human case, and personal reasons why this issue matters to you as a leader. They need to know what gender equality means to the organization – is it more women leaders, pay equality, and/or perceived equality of opportunities? Be clear up front what success looks like.
- Discuss: Good conversations are two-way dialogues where all voices are heard. To do this, ask open-ended questions like “what would our organization look like if our gender equality goals were met…” or “what are we missing out on by not maximizing the talents of all genders…” Get our full five-question guide at NextPivotPoint.com.
- Decide: Do not forget this critical step. After having the tough talk, make sure it is cemented with action. Asking “what did we decide to do today?” or “what will you commit to doing as a result of this conversation?” promotes positive change. Behavior change does not happen swiftly, it takes a series of candid conversations to drive cultural transformation.
How candid are you? Consider this self-assessment:
Inclusive workplaces are okay with imperfection.
As with any new habit, practice makes perfect. We’re looking for progress over perfection. If you don’t feel comfortable talking openly about DEI, ask yourself what it would take to feel more comfortable? For many allies and training, that’s education and content. Look for books, podcasts, and videos on topics you are most curious about. That curiosity might lead you to other points of curiosity. There are many facets to diversity. DEI goes well beyond just race and gender to less visible aspects like disability and LGBTQ+ and many more.
Have you ever tried to get healthier or lose weight? You know it’s way more than the decision that matters. It’s the journey over time of creating healthy habits that ultimately leads to weight loss. Much the same with DEI. Consider some healthy habits that you want to adopt as a DEI ally:
- Attend educational events at your organization about DEI
- Join or start an Employee Resource Group at your organization to show you want to be an ally
- Be on the lookout for inclusive and non-inclusive workplace behavior. If you see something, say something.
- Diversify your network. Think about the top five people you spend most of your time with. How could you get to know people that are different from yourself?
- Consider ally signals like adding your pronouns to your email signature or online accounts
Inclusive workplaces are nimble.
There is no one-size-fits-all ally approach. It is the personalized, authentic approach that matters the most. Dial in on your ally why. It will make the hard activities easier to do and practice when you know why this matters to you.
As with any behavior change, you have to inspect what you expect. How will you check in with yourself to make sure that you’re doing things more inclusively? Consider engaging an accountability partner that you can trade notes with and see how things are going with them and they can do likewise. Perhaps put reminders on your calendar for key activities you want to do. Block out time to think about your ally plan and how you want to continue to show up inclusively. Bring up DEI at existing team meetings or business meetings to show that this is how we do business, not just an initiative.
New habits are hard to form and it is hard to let go of old habits. Research shows that it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to cement behavior change. That is why this is a journey not a destination.
If you liked this article, share it with a friend, check out our Diversity Pivot Podcast for entertaining stories about inclusive leadership, or schedule time with Julie if you are interested in bringing this content to your organization. We also have a brand new virtual self-paced Lead Like an Ally course to check out!