Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Hand writing on paper: Give recommendations with Confidence: No Hedging, No faint praises, No undermining.
Hand writing on paper: Give recommendations with Confidence: No Hedging, No faint praises, No undermining.

1. Make sure coworkers feel safe, heard, and cared for

Last week’s attack on the US Capitol still weighs heavily on me. Perhaps you feel the same way.

In addition to dealing with my personal feelings and concerns, I’m sorting out what guidance I can give the Better Allies community. How should an ally show up in these unprecedented times? What actions should one take to be inclusive, show support, and be empathetic to others’ concerns?

I was inspired by a blog post from Michael Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work. His key message is that we should be speaking up even when silence is far easier. As he wrote, “Silence enables and forces people to assume what you think and believe.” Bush goes on to share some specific suggestions of how to transcend personal political choice and instead hold a values-based discussion about democracy and your organization’s role in preserving it. …


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Person throwing away a document into a trash can
Person throwing away a document into a trash can

1. Avoid “softening language”

Wednesday, January 6, 2021, was a day like no other, and I’m overwhelmed by the attack on my country’s democracy by white supremacists. Maybe you are as well.

While there’s much I’m processing about my own white privilege and the benefits I’ve received over my life because of my race, I decided to start today’s newsletter with just one takeaway from yesterday: Language matters.

As I learned from my friend and linguistic expert Dr. Suzanne Wertheim, “there is a lot of ‘softening language’ being used to describe this unprecedented violent attack on the American peaceful transfer of power.” In other words, people are using much gentler words than the situation warrants, most likely to avoid causing discomfort to people with power and privilege (aka white people). …


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Men, your problem is not diversity hires. Your problem is ‘homogeneity hires’.
Men, your problem is not diversity hires. Your problem is ‘homogeneity hires’.
Photo from Cindy Gallop’s keynote at the 3% Conference in 2019

1. Nix concerns about being a diversity hire

The 3% Conference focuses on changing the ratio of women and people of color in advertising. At their event last year, Cindy Gallop delivered a powerful talk to the white men in the room about what their future will look like with more diversity.

While I recommend watching the entire talk, be sure to catch this brief clip where Cindy delivers a zinger of a message:

“When I hear women say to me, ‘Cindy, I don’t want to be hired just because I’m a woman,’ my response is, ‘Get over it. …


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Words: The Alley Track, on a record surface
Words: The Alley Track, on a record surface
Illustration courtesy of the BBC

1. Understand your privilege with The Ally Track

Last week, the BBC launched a Creative Allies Tool to promote the concept of allyship in their organization, the creative industry, and beyond. I’m honored a thousand times over that they leveraged my work:

“Based on Karen Catlin’s ‘Better Allies’ process, the tool sets out seven types of ally — sponsor, champion, advocate, amplifier, scholar, upstander and confidant. Users are invited to choose which type of ally they would like to be personally. Over a month the tool will then give practical exercises, tips and best practice on how to be that ally.”

To explore the BBC’s tool, start by taking a few minutes to play The Ally Track. The tool will then prompt you to choose which type of ally you want to be and some steps you can take. …


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

neon orange numbers, overlapping, on black background, with the number 5 the brightest
neon orange numbers, overlapping, on black background, with the number 5 the brightest
Photo by ANIRUDH on Unsplash

This week’s newsletter is somewhat different from the norm. Instead of five everyday actions to take to be better allies, I decided to write about five things not to do. The news has been full of these cautionary tales, and I wanted to share them with all of you.

1. Don’t talk over someone

I’m starting this week’s newsletter with something I shouldn’t have to explain. Don’t talk over a person when someone directly asks them a question. Sadly, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did precisely this last week. Here’s what happened.

A reporter asked a member of Parliament, Anne Ruston, about the government’s culture for women. Just as she started to answer, the PM cut her off and made it all about himself, emphasizing how seriously he treats the issue of sexual misconduct. If you haven’t already watched this viral clip, you’re missing out on a master class in what not to do. …


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Person sitting on quote bubble, with other quote bubbles floating nearby
Person sitting on quote bubble, with other quote bubbles floating nearby
Illustration by Katerina Limpitsouni of unDraw

1. Turn on automatic captioning

In an article for Fast Company, product designer Quinn Keast shared his experience participating in video calls as a deaf person. Lip reading doesn’t work well over video, so he relies on automatic captioning. However, this also has its challenges due to time lags or dropped words.

To better understand the experience of someone relying on captions, his VP suggested their team all join a video meeting without audio. What was fascinating to Quinn is how their interactions changed during the call.

“The rhythm of conversation changed, from tentative, short sentences, to longer, well-thought-through blocks of thought. We discovered how difficult it was to go back and forth between speakers without the benefit of sound, and how important it was to give each other conversational space to join in. …


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

drawing of person sitting cross-legged, working on a laptop
drawing of person sitting cross-legged, working on a laptop
Illustration by Katerina Limpitsouni of unDraw

1. Focus on what you can control

I often recommend a simple framework to my coaching clients: Focus on what you can control and acknowledge what you can’t.

At the start of the pandemic, I worked with a leader struggling to support her team while navigating how the situation impacted her personally. She didn’t have all the answers, and she felt she was letting her team down. As a result, she wanted to run away and hide.

This simple framework became her go-to tool for handling the uncertainty of the times. For example, while she couldn’t change the fact that they had to work from home, she could look into securing some budget for home office furniture. By focusing on what she could control and acknowledging what she couldn’t, this leader went from wanting to avoid her team to holding listening sessions and showing up as the leader they needed. …


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Illustration of 2 hands holding DO and DON’T cards, with suggestions of what to say and not say when complimenting.
Illustration of 2 hands holding DO and DON’T cards, with suggestions of what to say and not say when complimenting.

1. Compliment with context

Last week, Lacey Wilson of Nutanix interviewed me in a fireside chat for their employees. We covered a range of topics, including privilege, the mindset of being an “ally in training,” and specific scenarios of how to take action as an ally. One of them was especially insightful and helped me crystallize how I want to show up. With Lacey’s permission, I’m sharing it with all of you.

Here’s the scenario Lacey posed: “I overheard someone saying to a Black person: ‘You were so articulate in that meeting just now.’ How might an ally respond?”

I went on to explain that, while they most likely thought they were paying a compliment, many Black people don’t take it as one. Here’s why: There’s an underlying assumption that they couldn’t possibly be well-educated, well-spoken, or articulate. It’s a lousy stereotype. …


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

looking up at a USA flag on a flag pole, flying on a cloudy day
looking up at a USA flag on a flag pole, flying on a cloudy day
Photo by Dave Sherrill on Unsplash

1. Prepare to support coworkers after the US election

I speak with potential clients almost daily, and last week, someone asked for my thoughts about how to be a better ally after the upcoming US election on November 3. Given how divided our country is over this election, there’s a good chance there will be division in our workplaces once the results are announced.

We discussed a few ideas for how to be an ally. Consider pushing out work deadlines because people will most likely be distracted. Make space for people to talk about their feelings. …


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Illustration of a person presenting a slide with the 5 tips in this article. People in meeting are clapping their hands.
Illustration of a person presenting a slide with the 5 tips in this article. People in meeting are clapping their hands.

1. Avoid phrases that diminish or disparage Indigenous people

On Monday, the US celebrated a federal holiday that’s a bit controversial. The original holiday was declared “Columbus Day,” in honor of the European explorer who landed on the shores of our country in 1492. However, many universities, cities, and states have moved to celebrate “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” a holiday that celebrates the history and contributions of Native Americans — rather than Columbus. (Interestingly, both holidays appeared on my Google calendar.)

Unfortunately, there are all too many sayings that diminish or disparage the culture of Indigenous peoples. …

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Better Allies®

Everyday actions to create inclusive, engaging workplaces. Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies® approach.

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