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Allyship and interrupting mircroaggressions

'Being an ally doesn’t necessarily mean you fully understand what it feels like to be oppressed. It means you’re taking on the struggle for justice and equality as your own in overcoming barriers and discrimination.' CIPD

Employer recommendations

➖Educate leaders and the employee population about what allyship means, what it looks like in practice and include practical actions for people to begin practising allyship. Provide toolkits for all employees regardless of they are a senior executive or someone starting out in their career. Examples of publicly available toolkits include: Amélie Lamont's The Guide to Allyship, Kone's Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit, BAMEed's Advice for being an ally and Imperial College London's How to be an LGBTQ+ ally toolkits.

➖Equip employees to engage in deliberate conversations to embark on a journey of repair when unintended consequences inevitably happen. Read more about confronting non-inclusive behaviour in What Really Works: Ensuring Inclusive Working Cultures, BITC (pages 16-19).

➖'Calling In' vs 'Calling Out' bias. ‘Calling in’ allows a target or an ally to bring to the attention of the ‘offender’ the negative impact of their words, actions, and/or behaviours by seeking understanding through probing questions, actively listening to their perspective, and creating the opportunity for reflection. 'Calling in' empowers the person being asked the question to  manage the situation.

Gartner recommends 'D&I leaders aim to steer employees away from pushback behaviours and toward allyship behaviours. To convert pushback into allyship, Gartner says leaders should:

  • Create group-specific safe spaces to surface pushback. If pushback remains underground, chances are it will only become more entrenched. That’s why it’s important for organisations to proactively surface pushback by creating  psychologically safe spaces to help employees, especially those from dominant groups, feel safe in voicing pushback.
  • Tailor communication and incentives to motivate allyship and ensure dominant groups see themselves as a part of the solution and not as a part of the problem. Motivate employees to take action on DEI by recognizing and giving visibility to allies on internal platforms and company websites and by creating developmental incentives (e.g., mentorship programs).
  • Upskill via definitive “how-to” guidance that enables allyship. Motivating allyship is not enough. Employees must know what to do to act on their desires to be allies. To do this, encourage communities of practice for dominant group members to share concrete examples and practices for being an ally and by providing employees with decision frameworks to assess which course of action they should take when faced with exclusionary behaviour. Read more about ways to confront non-inclusive behaviour and/or microaggressions in When and How to Respond to Microaggressions, HBR.

BBC has created The Ally Track, a digital training tool that is free for organisations and the general public to use. The tool aims to help the user understand how a person's advantages or disadvantages in life can affect their access to career opportunities. There is also an option to receive a series of emails that encourage action points which can be easily implemented. These help make people more aware of how they can help and support those around them.

💡Lan Nguyen Chaplin’s advice for individuals confronting biases in her HBR article:

  • Schedule a private one-on-one meeting. Conversations that take place at the same eye-level in a neutral space are most respectful and therefore, helpful.
  • Focus on the other person’s behaviours. This will remind you that, more often than not, there are bad behaviours, not bad people. People grow and change. People have bad days. People say things without listening to what they actually said. Approach them with an interest in nurturing the professional relationship.
  • Speak in a matter-of-fact tone. You want your message to take centre stage, not your emotions. Avoid blaming, labelling, yelling, swearing, sarcasm, insults, or threats. Avoid inaccurate over-generalizations, like, “always,” “never,” “everything,” and “nothing.”
  • Don’t bring up past events that could be misconstrued as a personal attack and derail the conversation. Focus the conversation on a single incident. This will help the other person gain insight into what happened and why it was wrong, whereas bringing up multiple incidents at once may feel overwhelming and cause the other person to shutdown entirely.
  • When discussing the incident, make sure you can articulate and support your point with evidence.
  • If the conversation gets heated, suggest a coffee break and reconnect in 10 minutes.
  • Really listen to what the other person says when they respond. Have the intent of understanding where they are coming from. I find that asking questions helps clarify (“Can you please help me better understand … ?” “What did you mean by … ?”)
  • End the meeting by thanking the other person for taking the time to engage and listen (“I’m glad you understand that … and you’ll work to … I now understand better …”) Ending the meeting this way nurtures the relationship

Further information