Everyone has the ability to be an ally
An ally is active and galvanising. They support and advocate for others, champion diversity and promote an inclusive culture that benefits everyone as a whole.
An ally is also committed to listening to the voices of others in order to challenge institutional bias, as well as their own. Indeed, it’s not easy being an ally. Challenging intrinsic bias requires self-reflection and recognition of your privilege. (Read our blog on privilege here).
Coming face-to-face with your own cultural conditioning, understanding how it has benefited you and realising how it has informed learnt behaviours and innate prejudices is an uncomfortable task. However, it is by understanding our privilege and uncovering unconscious bias that we can advocate for others and bring about real change.
And, most importantly, allies do not operate alone. They are not siloed from the organisation nor from one another; rather allyship is a collective movement.
So, why bother? Why become a workplace ally?
We all have a duty of care
What do you do if you witness a colleague being harassed, bullied or discriminated against? Lower yourself in your chair and duck down behind your computer screen to avoid getting hit in the crossfire? Or do you do something about it?
That doesn’t necessarily mean jumping up, unsheathing a pointed finger and shouting, “now you stop that right now” – although I hope if you did, it would be followed by the rapturous applause of colleagues – but it does mean intervention and speaking out; whether that be interrupting and diffusing a situation to divert attention from the victim at the time or approaching the victim afterwards to encourage the victim to report the incident, or indeed report it yourself.
We all have a duty of care to one another in the workplace. As well as acting when you see something that isn’t right, we have a collective responsibility for creating and maintaining the company culture we want to see. This starts with challenging bias, encouraging proactive empathy and promoting the benefits of diversity for business – and then putting these principles of diversity and inclusion into practice.
We are stronger together
Allyship helps foster a sense of belonging.
We are social animals and therefore have an innate desire to belong. Inclusive workplaces provide just that; they embrace diversity and recognise difference as enabling (not threatening to) the success of the organisation as a whole.
Allies uphold this commitment to inclusivity, fostering a sense of belonging and facilitating collaboration – all of which increase employee loyalty and job satisfaction, and yield tangible business benefits. Organisations that advocate diversity of self while bringing individuals together to collaborate and contribute towards a common goal enjoy greater financial return and competitive advantage. A notable point demonstrated in McKinsey & Co’s Delivering Through Diversity research, whereby businesses with greater gender diversity enjoyed 21% more financial return over their competitors, while for organisations with greater racial and ethnic diversity, this figure rose to 33%.
We can have and give voice
Allyship encourages people to speak up and out – both for others and against difficult or uncomfortable issues – in order to inspire and demand change.
People with privilege have the privilege of being heard. So, use that voice to challenge behaviours and raise concerns.
Further, allyship is unifying. It inspires a collective voice. Not a din of disparate voices speaking at once, nor some voices being louder than others. But a diverse range of voices speaking as one and as a collaborative. Speaking about the company culture they wish to see, the issues that are important to them, the challenges they want addresses and what they believe constitutes appropriate workplace behaviour. And it is this speaking in harmony that makes for the loudest and most melodious voice.
If you’re looking to encourage and identify allies in your workplace, our bystander intervention and unconscious bias training is a great place to start. Simply contact me today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Work in HR? Interested in preventing harassment, discrimination and bullying at work? Or perhaps you want to learn about diversity and inclusion? Why not sign up to one of our upcoming seminars or events? Click here for more information
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