Many companies have equal hiring practices, treat employees fairly and have policies and practices that reflect inclusive environments. Companies have worked hard to create cultures of equality, haven’t discriminated in hiring practices, have a few black employees and maybe even an executive level position held by a black person. Most of us would consider these companies as progressive and doing the right things. However, this belief may result in leaders believing that there’s no need to have race conversations with employees during the Black Lives Matter protesting.
Leaders choosing to not address racial inequality to their organizations run several risks including leaving black employees feeling like their leaders perceive racial inequality as insignificant and that their difference isn’t supported. Additionally, if there lacks a unified effort by all key leaders, employees may wonder what they’ll be risking by talking about race. Right now, especially for white male leaders, is a time to listen. Even if you’re a minority, you too need to listen because black experiences are different. As one of my client’s emphasized, we all need to “have empathy…[because] even if you’re a minority, you don’t get it.” The first thing to acknowledge is that no matter what your current organization is doing, things could be done better. Start being a true leader by:
- Being curious with yourself about why you’ve not addressed race to your organization.
- Asking a black employee how they experience race in your organization?
- Actively inviting spaces where race can be explored.
- Authentically ask your employees what you might be doing better.
- Creating opportunities for employees to openly discuss how they’re handling the current protests and riots.
For instance, company leaders may first begin by helping their top leader orchestrate a company statement to all employees. Please see for an example of what the CEO of Under Armor sent to all constituents for an example. After delivering your message you may then invite employees to a Friday lunch and learn or create a zoom call that is specifically focused around race. Perhaps there may be black employees who would like to share some experiences of bias, ask…and then listen. Or maybe it’s a call to action that opens spaces for suggestions on how to improve. The absolute one thing that must happen, is that you want black employees to feel supported and that key leaders are taking inequality seriously.
One thing is for sure, our Country is in a pivotal time and in order for your organization to thrive, leaders must figure out how and what to say. Our series on “Speaking Wisely” gives you the tools you need as you navigate how to have these difficult conversations. Call us today to start the conversation!