Leaving Loudly, and Other Actions for Allies

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

1. “Leave loudly” when heading out for personal reasons

We’ve all got them. Personal things that need to be done during work hours or maybe just require shutting down our laptops a bit earlier than usual. Think doctor’s appointments, internet provider hookups, children’s sporting events, recitals, and the like.

Yet, how many of us slink away from work, hoping no one notices? I know I have.

Each time, we miss an opportunity to leave loudly and tell people why we’re heading out. To set an example that it’s okay (and frequently required) to prioritize personal needs. To demonstrate that our company isn’t just paying lip service to flexible, family-friendly policies.

While leaving loudly is especially important for leaders who can set the tone of an organization, anyone wanting to be a better ally can do it. Here are some approaches:

  • Say goodbye as you walk out of the office and share why with those within earshot.
  • Block out time on your public calendar with the reason spelled out.
  • Update your Slack status.

While I’m on the topic of being out of the office …

2. Advocate for hourly worker pay during shutdowns

Earlier this week, diversity and inclusion consultant Nicole Sanchez tweeted,

“Was with a client today at a leadership mtg. She told them ‘If we close our office because of #coronavirus, we will make sure that hourly and contingent workers including janitorial, food service and security don’t lose wages.’
Hell yes. Find out the policy at your workplace”

Next, I learned that Microsoft made a commitment to protect the income of hourly workers who support their offices, regardless of hours actually worked during the COVID-19 crisis.

Do you know your company’s policy for paying hourly/contingent workers in case of an office closure? If they’d lose out on wages, can you lobby leadership to do the right thing for them?

[Updated after publication to reflect Microsoft’s recent announcement]

3. Consider “why” and “how” you collect gender data

Are you responsible for collecting data about customers, clients, students, employees, or patients? You might do so with an app or web site, a survey form, or a paper intake questionnaire.

If so, I recommend reading How to Collect User Data About Gender Identity — and When Not to. As the byline states:

“Gender data can be valuable for a variety of reasons. But before you ask, consider why you’re asking, and how you frame the question.”

The article includes a boatload of practical suggestions. Check it out.

4. Expand your go-to list for stretch assignments

A widely-accepted learning model is that 70% of employee development comes from taking on challenging assignments. Yet, these tasks, especially those that set up an employee for increased responsibility or promotions, tend to go to men.

The next time you need someone to stand in for you on an initiative or take on a high-profile stretch assignment, reflect on your selection criteria. Do you tend to give this work to certain people or certain types of people? If so, what would it take to expand that pool?

If you know only a few people who have the skills you value for these plum assignments, you might need to expand your network. Or figure out how more people, especially people outside your normal go-to list, can learn the skills you need.

Stretch assignments can open doors and ignite careers. It’s essential we find ways to spread the joy around.

5. Check your About page

Here’s a cautionary tale I heard from one of my newsletter subscribers.

After a company reached out to her about a role on their team, she used her phone to check out their “About” page. What a disappointment. In her words,

“The team picture at the very top was four dudes — pretty much a total turn off.”

When she mentioned this to the CEO, he was confused as he swore the picture was of the whole company. It turns out that, when the photo was viewed from a mobile device, only the four people in the middle could be seen. (The rest of the employees, which include women and people of color, were cut out).

Now it’s your turn. Take a look at the photos on your “About” page, both from a laptop/desktop browser and a mobile device. Imagine how a woman, a person of color, an older worker, or a person with a disability would feel seeing the images. Would they see people from a variety of backgrounds in settings that showcase their enjoyment at work and value to the company?

Job candidates need to be able to envision themselves working somewhere, and seeing their own experience reflected through photos is a crucial way to do that.

— Karen Catlin, Founder and Author of Better Allies

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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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