Pushing Back on Retaliation, Leveling Up Your Acknowledgement Game, 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 man pushing back against a wall. By Matthew Henry from Burst

1. Push back on retaliation for harassment

As Wired Magazine reported earlier this week, “Two employee activists at Google say they have been retaliated against for helping to organize a walkout among thousands of Google employees in November.” One person, facing a demotion, hired a lawyer. Google then conducted an internal investigation and reversed her demotion.

Let’s all watch out for retaliation after colleagues report harassment or bias. It may come in the form of demotions, like that Google employee, or more subtle acts of revenge. For example, not extending invitations to key meetings or not sharing important information. Whatever it might be, call out the behavior. Perhaps with a simple, “Hey, I noticed you left Sue off the invite list for next week’s customer meeting. Mind forwarding it to her?”

2. Level up your “acknowledgment game”

In Micro-promotions and mentorship: the big impact of small actions in an engineering culture, software engineer Hannah Henderson wrote about her experience after graduating from a coding bootcamp and becoming a software engineer.

While her article is a treasure trove of ideas for how to be a better ally, we especially like these small gestures her coworkers made to acknowledge her contributions:

  • Using the 👏 emoji in a pull request comment to highlight a clever bit of her code.
  • Sending a direct message of thanks upon realizing they were actively benefiting from a refactor she’d made to a previously gnarly bit of code.
  • Posting a note to their #gratitude channel on Slack recognizing how helpful some documentation she’d written had been to them, and encouraging others to use it.

Acknowledgements like these can make a big difference to people new to their role or facing impostor syndrome because of their non-traditional background.

Perhaps there are opportunities for you to level up your “acknowledgement game” to create a stronger sense of inclusion and belonging?

3. Don’t add gendered modifiers to roles

Recently, engineer “hx4noodle” tweeted,

We can all be on the lookout for unnecessarily gendered language. When it comes to modifying titles or roles, consider what value, if any, is added by including a gender term at all. Why say “female lawyer” when “lawyer” would do just fine? Why reinforce nursing as “women’s work” by saying “male nurse” and implying that it’s odd or unusual for a man to work in that field?

4. Use a 6-point scale or less

Last week, the Harvard Business Review published One Way to Reduce Gender Bias in Performance Reviews.

As Dr. Bushra Anjum tweeted about the report,

Think of all the places you evaluate people. Interviews, performance reviews, calibration discussions, assessment forms for speakers at a conference, etc. Are you using a 6-point scale (or less)?

5. Value the skills people tend to gain with experience

In response to last week’s story, some people sent us ideas of how to support older workers. Here’s what they said:

  • Don’t be surprised that I know deeply complex technical things. It’s my job.
  • Realize that people over 40 can bring things to the table that are unique to their age and experience. Emotional Intelligence. An ability to see multiple viewpoints. Not getting wound up about things that will pass.
  • Want to be my ally? Treat me as if I do an awesome job. Because I do.

Thank you!

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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