top of page

How To Be More Inclusive Of Black Employees And Colleagues In The Workplace

For years, the Black community, a remarkably diverse and heterogeneous community in itself, has endured the false promises of politicians, government, corporations, and employers. Talk of equity and inclusion in the workplace for Black people is hardly new. On the contrary, these discussions have taken place so many times over so many years that many Black job seekers regard them with justifiable skepticism.

It's vital for employers to appreciate this history when dealing with Black community members. Black individuals make up roughly 12 percent of the labor force in the United States. Regardless of education, they hold a disproportionately huge percentage of low-level, underpaying positions, according to a 2021 report by McKinsey. This number quantifies one aspect of the systemic racism that Black Americans face in the workplace.

Challenges Affecting the Black Community

  • Microaggressions. Passive-aggressive comments or indirect compliments about intelligence, ability to speak English, or the way they carry themselves.

  • Pressure to “fit in.” The pressure to create “facades of conformity,” suppressing personal views, values, and attributes to fit in with organizational ones (e.g., “whitewashing” resumes by deleting ethnic-sounding names or companies).

  • Reliance on Black employees for education. They are often tapped as the voice or main resource for informal conversations and diversity training, putting all the emotional labor on them.

  • Lack of representation. Being the only Black person on a team can place undue pressure by taking on the responsibility of representing Black individuals everywhere. It also means you don't see yourself in leadership positions, which makes it hard to believe that climbing the ladder is achievable.

As the world has been experiencing a pandemic of racism, many business leaders and companies are looking for ways to support their Black employees and colleagues. As an inclusive leader, it is an essential part of your journey to support Black colleagues and people of color, especially during a pandemic of racism. Here are some practical tips you can use to support these colleagues better.

Make a strong company statement. The organization’s leadership team should make a strong public statement to speak up against racism and show their commitment to proactively ending racism. Employees should proactively push their leadership teams to be vocal about their statement against discrimination at work and against racism. This is a corporate social responsibility, and it will have a positive influence on communities and society if done in the correct way.

Donate to relevant charities. Donate time or money to causes that further educate on and take action to end racism. Whether at the organizational level or at the individual level, everyone should donate what they can support organizations that fight to end racism.

Proactively ask your Black colleagues how they wish to be supported. Practicing empathy and offering support to your Black colleagues should be emphasized. Suppose managers don’t acknowledge the emotional impact on their colleagues and employees during an international crisis. In that case, they will not be prepared to address the implications that it has for their company’s bottom line.

Speak up. Speak up, stand up, say something. Remaining silent in cases of racism is being complicit. Speaking up will help society and companies move toward equality. Too many organizations remained silent during the social events. Too many company leaders also took little to no stance in regard to the events that unfairly targeted Black individuals. Leaders have an obligation to speak up and take a stance against racism. Silence is not an option for inclusive leaders.

Listen and learn. Listen and acknowledge your colleague’s feelings. Don’t talk. Focus on listening and learning without judgment. Listening and learning help foster workplace inclusion, creating an atmosphere where all employees belong, contribute, and thrive. It requires deliberate action. Active listening is about focusing on what the person is saying without the intent to reply. Listening fully can be one of the strongest actions to support your Black colleagues at work.

Actively hold your managers and colleagues accountable. Employees should hold their leadership team accountable for their actions. Employees should report any instances of racism, regardless of how small they might seem. Be the person who brings up the topic of how to support Black colleagues at work during meetings better. Do not be the person who remains silent and doesn’t ask for updates on what the organization is doing to support Black colleagues.

Mentor Black colleagues. Managers should be encouraged to identify talent within teams and to support them with the opportunity and knowledge to succeed. Managers should offer Black mentees stretch assignments and glamour work, speak of them positively when they are not in the room, and ask them about their career goals. Becoming an ally to Black colleagues is a critical response to racism and discrimination in the workplace. Mentoring Black colleagues enforces equity in the organization and works toward fair outcomes for Black colleagues by treating them in ways that address their unique barriers.

Read. Employees and managers should proactively read books and articles and listen to podcasts to educate themselves about the history of systemic racism worldwide to help them better understand what is happening today. Actively seeking to become more educated on the topic of Black individuals, Black culture, and Black people in the workplace will open up new perspectives and help a better understanding of what Black colleagues might be experiencing.

Create new communication channels. Creating a company forum or a new Slack channel specifically on the topic of racism will help educate about racism and fight racism. Invite as many colleagues as possible to become active members of that channel. This will educate people who might have unconscious bias against Black individuals.

1 view0 comments
bottom of page