June 14, 2021: Being a Good Ally

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are essential parts of a nurturing workplace environment. Even though changing policies to encourage DEI may not be part of your organizational role, you do have the ability to affect real change for your colleagues — as an ally.

By definition, an ally is someone who is not a member of an underrepresented group but who takes action to support that group. This means developing genuine personal relationships and carrying out public acts of advocacy for co-workers who may feel they aren’t being treated equally or are even being mistreated. Essentially, allies encourage others to treat people the way that they want to be treated themselves.

Here are tactics you can adopt to offer allyship:

  • Listen Intentionally. To better understand the unique perspectives of your teammates, you must be open to hearing about their experiences that you haven’t dealt with firsthand. As you listen, be prepared to learn that you might have made missteps in the past, either with your actions or preconceived notions. If that’s the case, acknowledge it and seek to do better in the future.
  • Level the Playing Field. Employees who are part of minority communities commonly report being interrupted or feeling ignored. Set expectations for and model equal treatment. At work meetings, for example, make it a rule that all attendees will be respected by being able to share without interruption. You can also set a positive example by not speaking when others are talking.
  • Give Credit. Another concern is when colleagues feel their suggestions go unheard and their contributions are minimized. If you see this happening, say “I really appreciate {Name’s} ideas about X,” and then reiterate their comment. Additionally, you can be deliberate about directing questions to employees with subject-matter expertise to make sure their ideas are considered.
  • Speak Up. If someone is being excluded, invite them to join you so they are not isolated. If an individual is being teased or if you can see that they’re uncomfortable with the conversation, don’t be silent. Saying, “this is an inappropriate topic, let’s change the subject” can be all that is necessary. Similarly, if someone has misused an employees’ preferred pronoun, you can correct them with a simple reminder of “{Name} uses they/them pronouns.”

Being an ally is an ongoing process; expect there to be trial and error. Keep challenging yourself to learn, accept criticism with grace, practice thinking before you speak and continue to move forward. 

For additional resources related to diversity, equity and inclusion, use the ‘What’s on Your Mind’ search tool on your SupportLinc web portal. In-the-moment guidance and support are also available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by calling 1-888-881-5462.

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