December 8, 2023 5 Min Read
Be the Change: How to Become an Effective Ally in the Workplace
In today’s diverse and ever-changing workplace, being an ally to underrepresented and marginalized groups is more important than ever. You’ve probably heard the term thrown around here and there, perhaps on social media, and now you’re wondering how you can be one yourself.
Regardless of what your initial thoughts are of what an ally is or does, put them to the side and come to this with a fresh state of mind.
We’re covering all the basics and beyond.
Let’s get right into how to become an ally who can make a difference.
Let’s get on the same page and explore what being an ally is because there’s a ton of hearsay and multiple meanings out there.
By definition, allyship is a lifelong process of actively supporting and advocating for underrepresented and marginalized groups, both within and outside the workplace.
It’s becoming an individual who can be part of something bigger. Someone active in ensuring the workplace is inclusive, everyone has a sense of belonging, and discrimination is addressed and dealt with productively.
This is where things can get complicated because there is undoubtedly an opposing force to being an ally.
If someone is discriminatory without realizing it, but you shout them down, cancel them, and make them feel terrible about it, the participant is likely to resist change and get defensive rather than being open to growing and recognizing how to move forward as an ally themselves.
Therefore, you need to learn to manage your approach by understanding what an ally is and how to be an effective one rather than causing problems. Social media is rife with this, which is why we ask you to come with a clean state of mind.
You can do this by using your privilege and position to amplify the voices of others and work towards creating a more inclusive and equitable environment for everyone at the workplace.
Recognize Your Privilege
So, becoming an ally, where are you supposed to start?
Quite simply, it starts with you going through the process of understanding yourself.
Here, Coach Gloria Er stresses the importance of recognizing one’s privilege and self-awareness. She believes that true support for a cause comes from truly understanding and aligning oneself with its values.
Privilege comes in many forms, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and ability. Understanding your privilege allows you to empathize with the challenges faced by underrepresented colleagues and helps you use your position to support them.
Related reading: Understand Your Personal Values To Succeed At Work And Life
Listen and Learn
Then comes the art of active listening.
It’s easy to read this post or related content on the internet and try to be an effective ally using the skills and information you acquire, but this rarely works.
Instead, you need to be proactive in your workplace by making a conscious effort to engage with colleagues from diverse backgrounds and learn about their experiences, perspectives, and challenges.
Keep an open mind.
Be willing to accept that their lived experiences may be different from your own.
Remember, it’s not their responsibility to educate you, so take the initiative to seek out resources and educate yourself on the issues they face.
Also, every workplace is different, as are the individuals, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
Instead, to be a real ally, you need to communicate with the minorities or affected people in your life, understand their unique problems, and then ally them through your words and actions.
There is no generic answer that can solve all the problems, despite what you might have seen online or in the media.
Take time to make sure you have a clear understanding of the issues in your workplace. It’s not something that will happen overnight and can take weeks, even months, to build trust and have clarity on the situation.
When, and only when, you understand the issues, you can start to be proactive in making things better.
The best way to do this is to amplify the voices of underrepresented colleagues.
In meetings and discussions, make space for them to share their thoughts and ideas. If you notice someone being interrupted or overlooked, step in and make sure their voice is heard.
You can also share and promote their work on social media and other platforms to help increase their visibility.
With systemic changes afoot, Coach Er prompts her clients to reflect on personal actions they can take to drive change. Being an ally isn’t just about broad gestures; it’s about everyday acts of understanding and support.
Speak Up and Challenge Bias
While you’re being proactive in creating spaces for people at the workplace, it’s not all about the opportunities to talk and raise people. Instead, it’s also about addressing problems and obstacles, and there will be many.
This is the hard bit where most people find it difficult because it involves potential conflict with others. In some regards, it’s the bit some people love because it involves drama and attention.
Be careful moving forward.
So, how do you do this?
It breaks down to the act of speaking up and challenging bias, discrimination, and microaggressions when you witness them.
This can be not easy, but it’s vital to create a more inclusive work environment.
Address these issues both privately and publicly, and use your privilege to advocate for change within your organization.
Support Inclusive Policies and Initiatives
As more people become allies, and this is an increasingly spoken-about topic, you’ll notice how the world of business is changing, and workplaces are stepping up themselves to become accepting places that have an emphasis on belonging.
On a systematic level, this means changing policies, initiatives, and regulations within the workplace to actively support and advocate for inclusivity.
This could include promoting diversity and inclusion training, pushing for more diverse hiring practices, or supporting employee resource groups (ERGs) focused on underrepresented groups.
Encourage your organization to set clear goals and track progress in creating a more inclusive environment.
Mentor and Sponsor Others
If you’re looking for more advanced methods to become an ally, you’ll need to look into supporting underrepresented colleagues through mentorship and sponsorship programs.
Offer guidance, share your knowledge and experience, and help them navigate their career paths. Sponsorship involves using your influence to advocate for their advancement within the organization and ensuring they have access to opportunities for growth and development.
Get your workplace to sponsor and with you to produce productive, impactful programs that can make a difference.
Practice Self-Care and Reflect
Finally, remember that allyship is an ongoing journey, and practicing self-care and reflection is essential. Recognize that you will make mistakes, but use these moments as opportunities to learn and grow.
Continually educate yourself, stay informed on social justice issues, and seek out feedback from colleagues to ensure you’re the best ally you can be.
As you continue your journey as an ally, remember that it’s an ongoing process of learning and growth. Be open to feedback and willing to adapt your approach as needed. By staying committed to allyship, you will not only create a better work environment for your colleagues but also foster a more inclusive, equitable, and successful organization as a whole and make it a better workplace.
Note that allyship is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
What works for one person or organization may not work for another. Keep an open mind, be flexible, and tailor your allyship strategies to your specific workplace and colleagues’ needs. This adaptability will ensure your efforts are as effective and meaningful as possible.
As you can see, being an ally is more than just a title or a label – it’s a way of life.
By embracing the principles of allyship and putting them into practice daily, you can help create a more inclusive and equitable workplace that benefits everyone. It’s a journey that requires dedication, empathy, and understanding, but your impact on your colleagues and organization will be well worth the effort.
So, go forth and be the change you want to see in the workplace – and the world.