What can individuals do to promote their inclusion in an organization? What can managers and leaders do to create an environment in which inclusion is possible?
SEE PRIOR PARTS IN THIS SERIES BELOW
First, acknowledge that there is a problem. Accept the evidence and testimony that systemic racism, disparate treatment, and economic inequality exist. Chris Reynolds is Toyota Motor North America’s Chief Administrative Officer, Manufacturing and Corporate Resources. Chris is Black, and I met him when he first came to Dallas in connection with Toyota North America’s relocation from Southern California to Plano, Texas. I introduced him to SMU as a talent resource. In a recent Dallas Morning News advertorial, Chris offered three steps for change in a “society broken by systemic racism and vast inequalities.”
- Be accountable and aware of our history, “stripped of revisionist concealment.”
- Understand our connectedness: “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
- Be accountable to do our part as individuals and as organizations.
Once a leader or manager is convinced of the benefits of a diverse workforce and an inclusive environment and acknowledges the barriers to obtaining these benefits—he or she can take a number of concrete actions to create an environment in which the full range of differences can be harnessed. Many of these simply create relationships with minority and other marginalized associates.
- Meet with them; learn the unwritten rules and “everyday racism” they experience.
- Be open to discussing perceptions of inequity.
- Protect them when they share openly about inequities and racism.
- Help them build relationships; broker powerful introductions.
- Speak up; recommend them for promotions.
- Share your vulnerabilities and mistakes. We are hard-wired for reciprocity; this encourages others to share.
- Nurture early career talent; give them stretch projects, for example.
- Coach them on self-awareness and perspective-taking: “if it were me …“ “imagine someone …“
Other steps establish more just systems and processes.
- Commit to targets that require reach: not just for representation at every level but for things like compensation spending, choice of vendors, and potentially biased investments (e.g. facial recognition software).
- Prioritize commitment to diversity and inclusion in promotion decisions; assess what candidates are doing to fund employee resource groups and provide time or extra compensation for that work.
- Focus on retention. Provide role models, mentors, sponsors, and training programs; create a culture that gives purpose to work, and allows employees control over their future.
Minority associates can take steps to advance inclusion in their organizations.
- Leverage peak performance.
- Build networks—far and wide, deep and trusted—and tend them.
- Maintain a good balance between your “organization” self and your “true” self.
- Share your experiences with “everyday racism” and organizational inequities. This can have two beneficial effects.
- Create understanding and empathy. A Black Target executive shared a time when police held him at gunpoint through his kitchen window after he finished an evening jog in his neighborhood. He told employees, “I’m sharing this story with you to get you to understand how significant of an issue it is, how much of a burden that I carry, the black leaders and team members carry in our stores …. We’re exhausted, and this is why we’re exhausted.”
- Generate “air-cover” from superiors. After George Floyd’s death, a Black trucking company executive posted a seven-minute video on LinkedIn in which he shared his own encounters with racism and urged his co-workers to do the same. Later, the executive posted another LinkedIn video pointing out that the trucking industry is led primarily by white men. This prompted some people in the company to counsel him to be careful not to offend anyone. The executive felt that “if being me costs me my job, so be it.” However, his boss told him, “Don’t ever let anyone or anything change you. That is not a request!”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recently summarized how minority associates and their allies must work together. He wrote;
Meaningful and measurable progress for any marginalized group—people of color, immigrants, women, LGBTQ+ people, Muslims, Jews—can be achieved only when all besieged groups pull together, without waiting for or needing to convince others who don’t face the same challenges. We want them, we welcome them, we appreciate them, but we can’t need them.
Everyone—minorities and non-minorities, people subject to discrimination, their managers, and their organizations’ leaders—must contribute to achieve a just, inclusive, and successful organization.
Resources: This and the previous Reflection are based on the work of Dr. Alexis Smith-Washington, Spears School of Business, Oklahoma State University.
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, “How to Sustain Momentum,” Los Angeles Times, July 7, 2020.
- Peter Lauria, “Why is Black Talent ‘Opting Out’ of Corporate America?” Korn Ferry Briefings, Issue 44, July 21, 2020
- Chris Reynolds, “Becoming Better: Toyota’s Collective Response to Social and Racial Justice During a Pandemic,” FWDDFW, The Dallas Morning News, July 9, 2020.
- Khadeeja Safdar and Keach Hagey, “Black Executives Break their Silence,” The Wall Street Journal, June 27-28, 2020.