Don’t Reward the Brilliant Jerk, and Other Actions for Allies

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

blurry shadow of a person on a trophy
blurry shadow of a person on a trophy
“trophy 1997” by info image seek is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

1. Don’t reward the brilliant jerk

On his WorkLife podcast, Adam Grant interviewed Luis von Ahn, CEO and Founder of Duolingo. They spoke about building a culture that protects employees from abuse. Luis shared a memorable piece of advice: “in a company, it’s better to have a hole than an a**hole.”

Want to have fewer a**holes in your company? Here’s an idea.

Atlassian recently revamped their annual review process to be less biased and not reward behaviors that can take a toll on team health and company culture. In other words, they took steps to ensure they weren’t rewarding the a**holes and the “brilliant jerks.” You can read about their framework here.

2. Ditch job requirements that aren’t actually required

In an interview published in Forbes, we read that “Companies like Apple, Google, IBM, and others are no longer requiring employees to have college degrees.” We bet it’s because they were hiring otherwise great candidates.

If you’ve got a job listing that says, “bachelor’s degree or higher,” ask yourself this question: If a candidate came along with everything we need except that degree, would we make them an offer?

Given today’s tight labor market, why not drop the requirement? And start attracting more people with non-traditional educational backgrounds who might otherwise hesitate to apply.

3. Call out the objectification of women

David Brunelle, a Director of Engineering at Starbucks, received what he described as a “blatant example of sexism in an email from a salesman.” The email included, “what’s your go-to order at Starbucks? I like my women like I like my Starbucks Coffee order: Tall, Blonde, Americano…” To which David responded, “Men: Don’t do this. Here is my reply…”

“Tech can be a challenging place for women. Your statement perpetuates the mindset that women are here for our entertainment. I don’t believe that to be true.”

He went on to write, “I’m also dedicated to increasing diversity in technology. In order to increase the number of women and minorities in this field, we need to foster an environment where everyone feels safe and supported. It doesn’t seem like our values align.”

Well played.

4. Learn the names of your coworkers

In an OpEd for Teen Vogue, artist and author N’Jameh Camara made a compelling case for learning to pronounce the names of people around you. She wrote, “The choice made by many not to learn my name renders me invisible.”

When a casting director once suggested N’Jameh change her name to something “easier,” she pushed back, asking “who would I be making it easier for?”

She went on to state that names aren’t “easy” or “difficult” to pronounce, it’s just that we are “unpracticed” in saying them. And practicing unfamiliar names falls onto the shoulders of each of us to do to create a more welcoming, inclusive workplace.

5. Push back on decision-making where the loudest voices win

Author and technologist Robert Munro recently published an essay, How Can Technology Leaders be Better Allies for Diversity. While his entire article is worth reading, we especially appreciated that, during an exit interview, he criticized the company for its decision-making processes that let the loudest voices win. As he explained, the process was “disproportionately biased against people who were less fluent in English and also against non-males who were brought up in cultures where boys are socialized to speak up more than girls.”

If your company’s decision-making process rewards the loudest voices, call it out. And please do so well before your exit interview.

(Robert, thanks for all the shout-outs for our work. We appreciate it.)

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

Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies™ approach.

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

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