Allies play a very important role in creating inclusive work environments. Allies can help amplify the message, break down barriers and secure support of the masses. So, when you’re ready to step into the role of ally, here are some things you can do to ready yourself and increase your effectiveness.
- Educate yourself and be prepared – You’ve heard the saying knowledge is power. Nothing could be truer when considering your role as an ally. Take the time to educate yourself about your organization’s D&I policies, about social justice issues in your community and gather as much information and supporting data as you can to support your position. The more prepared you are, the more confident and effective you will be in your role as ally.
- Understand and leverage your privilege – It is often difficult to advocate for change without appearing self-serving or overly sensitive when you are among those affected by the non-inclusive behavior or the systemic structures that need to change. As allies we are in a position of privilege. Privilege enables us to advocate for inclusion and equal rights without the stigma of being self- serving and allows us to point out injustices and inequalities in ways that can be heard and accepted by others in our group.
- Lead by example – Allies have an opportunity to role model inclusive behavior and as such can create a new standard and others will follow suit. It is of paramount importance that inclusion is evident in all our actions as well as our words.
- Advocate for change – Look for patterns associated with organizational norms that may minimize differences and limit the success of marginalized employee groups. Acknowledge these patterns with yourself, with your peers and with leaders in the organization. And finally, work with leaders throughout the organization to change these patterns and create a more equitable and inclusive workplace.
- Have an open mind – To be a change agent takes patience and perseverance. Take time to process your emotions so you can begin the process with an open mind and a positive attitude. Take an honest look at yourself and your assumptions regarding the situation. Remain centered throughout the process, take a problem-solving approach and try to be open to the opinions and feelings of others. Above all, do not be combative but rather, approach the situation as an educator and peace maker.
- Use your voice to educate and support others – As you become more comfortable in your role as ally and build your own skill and competency, you can begin to educate others in the organization.
- Build a coalition – Advocacy typically comes with a fair amount of challenge and resistance. To be most effective look for fellow champions throughout the organization who can lend their voices to the cause. Ideally your coalition of fellow champions should include a diverse representation of people and should include coworkers from a variety of functions and levels. A team of advocates creates a more powerful voice and also provides practical and emotional support when resistance is at its greatest. Change can be a slow process and having support in place can be instrumental for the long haul.
What are you doing to be an ally?