Creating Conversational Speed Bumps, and Other Actions for Allies

Each week, we share five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

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Photo of a speed bump in the road, by Atomity via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

1. Create “conversational speed bumps”

Imagine you’ve just heard someone making an oppressive comment. Maybe you’re offended personally, maybe not. Regardless, imagine you want to speak up, but the balance of power is not in your favor. For example, if the other person is a client. Or a senior leader. Or the alpha person in the room.

  • “I’m a little confused, but what I think you are saying is [topic minus the oppressive comment].”
  • “I’m afraid I don’t get the joke. Moving on…”
  • “I think I’ve lost the thread of the conversation. What about [topic]?”
  • “I didn’t quite catch that, but what I understood was [topic] and here’s my thoughts…”
  • [Slightly too long of a silence after someone makes an oppressive comment and then asks you to speak] “… So, back to what we were talking about…”

2. Scrub “generous” from descriptions of parental leave

In It’s time to stop referring to maternity leave as “generous,” we learned about the disparity between maternity benefits given here in the U.S. and those of other countries. And how the word “generous” should not be used to describe most of these offerings, especially those that fall short of the International Labor Organization’s guideline — 14 weeks of leave at no less than two-thirds pay.

3. Invite someone from an underrepresented group to a key meeting

Think about important events you’re invited to. Perhaps it’s to grab a drink after work with an executive who’s visiting from out-of-town. Or to meet and greet a luminary who’s speaking at your company. Or attend a demo of a new technology.

4. Don’t penalize women or people of color for being angry at work

Consider how Serena Williams was treated at the 2018 U.S. Open finals, where she was penalized for expressing her frustration on the court. Multiple male tennis players came forward to say they’d said and done much worse during their matches and never been criticized.

5. Enter the Better Allies™ Goodreads Giveaway

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Photo of the book “Better Allies”

Being an ally is a journey. Want to join us?

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

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