Allyship in the workplace is key to creating a more inclusive company culture.
Being an ally means being an advocate for all members of your workplace, particularly those who face discrimination or harassment.
Allies will typically belong to a widely represented community but help to support, encourage, and create more opportunities for minority groups. For example:
- White male management could be allies of black women in the workplace in supporting their promotion to a senior level
- Those from more privileged backgrounds could be allies to those who lacked the same socioeconomic opportunities.
10 ways to be a better ally
1. Recognise your own privilege
The key to allyship is first being able to recognise the advantages and resources you may have automatically received while others have been denied them. Don’t be afraid to admit that you may have not entirely earned every element of your success and that you may have been complicit in furthering inequality.
2. Never stop learning
Take time to deepen your understanding of inequality, injustice and the importance of diversity and inclusion through reading, listening and researching. Consider how your own behaviour may have perpetuated discrimination.
From meetings and gatherings to work allocation and promotions, stay vigilant to the experience of minority communities at work and learn from what you see.
3. Do not make others responsible for your own learning
It can be tiring and distressing for minority colleagues to constantly repeat their experiences and explain elements of injustice and inequality that you do not understand.
If you start a discussion about discrimination or harassment, seek permission before asking questions.
4. Actively listen to what people have to say
Approach conversations with an open mind and believe people’s lived experiences, even if these don’t align with your own. Don’t get defensive or play devil’s advocate.
Ask questions sensitively and openly e.g. “I’m curious about things women in this company find challenging day to day that I may not notice. Would you comfortable sharing some of these challenges with me?”
5. Be mindful of gaslighting
Gaslighting is the act of creating doubt in a victim’s mind that makes them question their own memory or response.
Avoid phrases like: “I think you’ve blown this out of proportion” or “can you not take a joke?”. If you hear these responses from others, call them out.
6. Recognise difference in experience between different minority colleagues
Don’t assume that all members of different underrepresented groups will have had the exact same experience or face the same challenges. For example white women’s experiences are not necessarily the same as those of black women who could be even more marginalised in an organisation.
Build relationships with a wide range of colleagues to understand the different challenges at play. This means making yourself available and listening generously to create a safe environment.
7. Be willing to accept feedback
Seek and accept feedback from underrepresented groups but be mindful of power dynamics and unintended stress. You need to first develop trust and safety to ensure colleagues feel comfortable sharing their true feelings, particularly if you are senior.
Even if you’re disappointed with feedback, show your appreciation e.g.: “I understand I have work to do”; “what can I do better?”.
8. Understand the impact of micro-aggressions
Even if you or another person did not intend to offend, it is crucial to recognise the impact of non-inclusive behaviours and acknowledging this if it communicated to you.
Even if something seems innocuous or insignificant to you, the cumulative effect of micro-aggressions over time can have a detrimental impact on underrepresented groups.
9. Advocate for others
Constantly evaluate how can you drive improvements to workplace policies, practices and culture. For example:
- Always ensure marginalised groups are represented at important meetings and gatherings
- Consider whose perspective is missing when making decisions
- Create opportunities for underrepresented colleagues by leveraging your network and providing mentorship
10. Give support in the moment
If you witness discrimination don’t approach the target later to offer your support - give it in the moment. Be clear and decisive in shutting down comments and intervene whether or not a minority group is present to explain why behaviours are not acceptable.
If you don't feel able to speak up in person - consider using a speak up platform if available. Solutions like InChorus can be a great way to speak up as an ally, whilst staying anonymous if you're worried about coming forward.