No matter which part of the political spectrum you might find yourself on, whether it be the far left, the alt right, or somewhere in between, this past weekend certainly provides some food for thought applicable to California employers.
The country, and many workplaces, have become increasingly polarized. Yet many people are craving inclusion and a sense of hope. Employees want to be valued, appreciated and heard. Supporters of the new administration certainly voiced a sense of hope that things might change, and that those left behind by a growing economy will see some actions to address their concerns. The hundreds of thousands of people who marched in various cities across the county, including a reported 750,000 here in Los Angeles, also voiced a need for a sense of inclusion with other like-minded individuals, even if those people may have different views on specific issues.
While discussions about politics in the workplace can be divisive and are universally not recommended, discussions about inclusion are important. That inclusion can be based on sex, race, sexual orientation, religion, disability or any other category protected by law. In fact, the law here in California has granted protections to individuals in workplaces who raise concerns about pay equity, discrimination, harassment, and retaliation for raising concerns about any such issues. So open discussions in the workplace should be welcomed.
Many people are wondering what they can do to make a difference. On that issue, and as it relates to inclusion in the workplace, here are a few suggestions (several adapted from the Father of a Daughter Initiative):
- When someone at work opens up to you about an issue they believe is unfair, hear them out and resist the urge to be defensive. You don’t need to agree, but you can certainly listen and try to understand their point of view.
- Act to correct issues of bias or micro-inequities you may witness or hear about. This can be as simple as repeating and emphasizing what someone with less power says at a meeting, while explicitly giving that person credit (“as Maria just said, I agree that we need to ….”). This concept has been referred to as “shine theory” or “amplification.”
- If you are in a position of power, make sure to look beyond your regular go-to personnel, and expand your net to someone you may not have considered for a special assignment or important role.
- Be a visible advocate for those in your workplace less powerful than you are.
My hope, as Co-Chair of my firm’s Womens’ Initiative, is that this weekend’s momentum can be followed by many individual acts of inclusiveness at work. Change starts with each one of us. Let’s all be open to alternate points of view, make a difference in our own way, and strive to be a positive influence on those around us.