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Show Your Love at Work by Becoming an Ally

This month we’re embracing love on Valentine’s Day and honoring the triumphs of African Americans for Black History Month. Extend those celebrations into your workplace by creating a space where every voice is heard, and differences are celebrated: Work on becoming an ally.

An ally actively supports and advocates for marginalized groups, recognizes the unique challenges they face and works towards a more equitable future. This goes beyond diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) training and gets to the heart of an organization’s culture to ensure it is animated by respect and equitable treatment, creates a space where all employees feel valued and supported, and centers minoritized voices and stories.

Let’s explore some practical steps to becoming an ally:

1. Educate yourself.

The first step on the journey towards allyship is learning (and sometimes unlearning) about the experiences of marginalized groups. Take responsibility for expanding your knowledge by seeking out resources that provide insights into diverse perspectives. You might listen to podcasts, read literature by authors of color, and watch documentaries that help you to see through new lenses.

Educating others about the experiences of marginalized people should not fall solely on them. While it can be tempting to ask people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ individuals about their experiences with injustice, that unfairly burdens them with unnecessary emotional and cognitive labor. When asking for recommendations for educational resources, request permission before inquiring.

2. Recognize your privilege.

Acknowledging your own privilege serves as a fundamental aspect of effective allyship. Privilege exists in many forms – from gender to being neurotypical and able-bodied. We must identify our privileges to understand how we can show up as allies for those who need our support.

Think about the advantages, opportunities, and power you may possess. This level of self-awareness forms the foundation to leverage your privilege to dismantle systemic barriers others might experience. When recognized and harnessed responsibly, privilege becomes a powerful tool for positive change.

3. Listen to learn.

To truly understand the experiences of marginalized individuals, allies must lend an empathetic ear. Active listening ensures that you listen to learn and understand rather than to formulate a response. When someone shares their experience, give them your full attention by limiting distractions and using open body language. Once they finish speaking, show them compassion and empathy by validating their perspective. Thank them for telling their story and confiding in you.

This builds trust and fosters an environment where everyone feels heard and understood – key factors in creating psychological safety in your organization. Establishing an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their experiences sends the message that all feelings, perspectives, and ideas are welcome. Let people know they can confide in you.

4. Amplify voices and advocate for others.

True allyship goes beyond passive support – it involves actively amplifying the voices of those whose perspectives might be excluded. If you hear someone share a great idea, use your platform to bring attention to it and give that person proper credit. Make an effort to solicit feedback and invite participation from everyone on the team. If you notice that someone didn’t contribute during a meeting, connect with them afterwards to find out what you can do to better support them.

Look around your next meeting and notice who’s present. How many women sit at the table? People of color? What social identities are present—or absent? Might it be time to invite more diversity to the table? The business case for diversity is no longer cutting edge thinking, it’s essential to better decision-making, richer discussions, and greater creativity.

You might even consider taking your allyship a step further by becoming supporting the career opportunities and growth of team members who are from underrepresented groups in your workplace.  Mentor or sponsor someone. Invite them to networking events, include them on important projects that highlight their skills, and introduce them to key players in the organization.

5. Speak up.

Allyship requires courage.  As an ally you’ll want to be on the lookout for bigoted comments and behavior in the workplace. If you witness any discriminatory acts, you can intervene in a few different ways. Speak up regardless of whether marginalized individuals are present – as silence comes across as complacency and speaking up only in the presence of oppressed folks is performance.

Consider asking open-ended questions to get curious about what prompted their action or remark. Explain that bigotry doesn’t reflect the organization’s values and won’t be tolerated in your workplace. By explaining that inappropriate remarks don’t align with the way the organization seek to show up, allies turn confrontations into opportunities for learning and growth.

Allyship is not just a title; it’s a commitment—to continuous learning, self-reflection, and action. While creating an inclusive and psychologically safe workplace requires collective effort, it creates a work environment where all individuals can thrive. Embrace the responsibility to show your love at work by becoming an ally to those who need it most and help transform your organization and the wider world.

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