Managers as Allies at Work

The latest horrifyingly tragic events that resulted in more deaths of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement have elevated racial injustice and societal disparities in the global consciousness. Many companies – including 24 Seven – have renewed their commitment to championing change in the workplace and society. While organizations figure out their improved diversity, equality, and inclusion action plans, managers can begin to prompt change immediately within their teams using their position of leadership to inspire progress in the company.

Here are several ways managers can improve their effectiveness as an ally:

Listen

First and foremost, the manager must give everyone a voice and safe space to express themselves without fear or favor. An ally manager’s role is to listen to learn, not to respond or control the conversation. To be mindful of their implicit biases and how those may influence the ways in which information is being filtered. The manager will hear experiences that they may not have lived, and it’s essential to be fully present to see another point of view. This moment is not about the manager finding an oppression-to-self connection nor is it about the manager’s feelings or their need to unload them.

This listening session is about absorbing someone else’s experience to see the situation from a unique and different perspective and allowing the individual voicing their concern to take the lead in directing the fight for change. The manager is gathering information so that they can represent and amplify the viewpoint of an absent minority. The point of allyship is that even though the manager may never understand the experience of oppression, their role is to take on the unjust consequences as if they are their own.

Learn

It’s not the role of marginalized team members to teach managers. Ally managers are proactive in learning more about social injustice – they seek out books to read, workshops to attend, and online trainings to complete. When an ally manager increases their knowledge, they increase their consciousness of their problematic behavior, biases, and the company’s potential blind spots. This awareness allows them to make better choices for themselves and help affect organizational change, taking their cue from underrepresented colleagues.

Challenge & Speak Up

Ally managers use their position of power and privilege to point out imbalances in that very power and privilege between the majority and minority. They point out oppressive patterns of organizational and individual behavior in the presence and absence of underrepresented employees. An ally speaks up whenever, wherever, and with whomever, the difficult conversations need to happen. They must continue to point out incidences of racism, microaggressions, and/or systematic oppression, even when people seem to want to move on to the next social issue. Allyship is a long-term commitment.

Promote, Nominate & Credit

Ally managers ensure that every team member has a seat at the table and that they also have an opportunity to share ideas and opinions without fear of ridicule or retribution. Ally managers give credit where credit is due, promote the work of marginalized team members, and raise their prominence. When professional development or high-visibility opportunities arise, ally managers make sure their team members are considered. Ally managers elevate, nominate, and celebrate the minority to the majority. Ally managers are advocates and champions.

The one thing an ally is not is a savior. Allies are not the hero of the story. They are the supporter. The partner in taking up the fight for change, with the oppressed leading the charge.