Everyday Actions For These Hard Times

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

Fog covering red bridge, fading in the distance
Fog covering red bridge, fading in the distance
Photo by J L on Unsplash

I almost didn’t write this week’s newsletter. Facing so much uncertainty for my family, friends, and community, it’s been hard to focus, let alone figure out what all of you might find helpful from the Better Allies approach to workplace inclusion.

But I realized I did have some things to share. Ideas curated from what I’ve been reading and discussions I’ve had with coaching clients this week. As always, I hope you find them helpful, and I am thankful you’re still on this journey with me to be a better ally.

— Karen

1. Insist on notes for every meeting

Let’s face it. Many folks are facing distractions as they attempt to work from home, especially if they have young children. To support anyone who might need to step away from a meeting or can’t join it at all, make sure there is a note-taker for every meeting.

Unless note-taking is in someone’s job description, make sure this “office housework” is a rotating responsibility. Everyone should take a turn.

2. Be flexible about availability

Working from home will be different for different people. Some might be able to join a call at a moment’s notice or respond to Slack or text messages immediately. Those with caregiving responsibilities might not be available in the moment. (I’ve heard of couples who are working shifts of four hours so that one is focused on caregiving while the other is working, and then they switch. Single parents, of course, don’t have even this option.)

Let’s all do our best to be understanding and flexible with our colleagues about their availability as well as our own.

3. Give credit if someone asks you to present their idea

Earlier in March on Twitter, Ashley Willis ran a poll asking:

“Women: Have you ever had a man deliver a message or a point you thought was important because you knew the room was more likely to listen?”

You know what? Almost half of the respondents said yes.

Since this is a thing that happens, let’s embrace it and extend it. Especially now with so much remote work. Here’s what I recommend. If someone asks us to deliver a message because they think it would be more effective, let’s say “yes” AND then make sure to give them credit. It could be as simple as stating, “I’m speaking up now to share something important that I learned from Maggie.”

4. Communicate your Employee Assistance Program information

Many people, for the first time in their lives, will be facing mental and emotional well-being issues as they deal with the impact of COVID-19. If your organization offers an Employee Assistance Program to connect people with short-term counseling and referrals for services, it makes sense to remind people of this benefit and how they can start utilizing it.

Speaking of communication…

5. Communicate daily with your team

If you are in a leadership role, you’ll want to read this Harvard Business Review article. It has lots of helpful guidance, including:

“Studies have shown that leaders, in particular, have a special role reducing employee anxiety. In my study of crisis communication after 9/11, many employees described how important it was to hear the voice of the leader, whether live or through email, phone messages, or social media.

To communicate with employees, organizations should:

Post information regularly in a highly visible location. This can be a physical location or virtual — email, the company intranet, or a Slack or Facebook channel.

Describe how decisions were made about issues such as travel, working from home, etc.

Communicate no less than every other day.

Try to provide timely information rather than waiting until you know all of the answers.”

I wish you strength and safety as we all move forward,

— Karen Catlin, Founder and Author of Better Allies

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✉️ This content originally appeared in our newsletter, 5 Ally Actions; Subscribe to get it delivered to your inbox every Friday

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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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