Lifting Up Your Most Impacted Employees

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

1. Check in with your Asian and Black employees

Last weekend, Dr. Erin L Thomas tweeted a thread that started with,

“Your Asian and Black employees may need some extra TLC these days, as COVID-19 has incited anti-Asian racism and is proving disproportionately deadly for Black people. Here are 5 things you need to start doing for them on Monday.”

While I recommend reading the full thread or watching this recording of a webinar roundtable that inspired her thread, here are some actions I’d like to highlight:

  • Check in with employees. E.g., “I’ve been following the data on the impact of the virus on the Asian/Black community. My virtual door is open if you want to talk through how this is affecting you and your loved ones.”
  • Ask how they’re doing on a scale of 1 (I need a personal day) to 10 (Feeling great!), which can help you calibrate how to support them.
  • Ask “What do you need from me?” This specific wording can convey that you feel accountable for their success.

She ends the thread with this important call-to-action:

“Leadership is a privilege. Now’s the time to pull up for your people. Of course, by lifting up your most impacted employees, you also develop habits that benefit all employees. Please consider trying these tactics with everyone on your team.”

2. Be aware of “wearing a mask while Black” concerns

If you’re asking employees or customers to wear masks because of the coronavirus, be aware that Black Americans will weigh a different set of risks than White people. Not only will they think about how masks can protect themselves and those around them, but they may also be concerned about racial profiling. Will wearing a mask make them more likely to be targeted as a criminal?

In Two black men say they were kicked out of Walmart for wearing protective masks. Others worry it will happen to them, the Washington Post reported on the concern. To follow mask-wearing advice or not? Either choice could result in deadly consequences.

To counteract the bias, realize it’s real. If you’re conducting in-person business, train your employees to be welcoming to anyone coming into your workplace with a mask, regardless of skin color. Consider sharing this simple image to help people assess their own bias and challenge stereotypes.

3. Advocate for increased parental benefits

Microsoft announced a new benefit to help their employees cope with the impact of the coronavirus crisis: Three months of paid parental leave to deal with extended school closures. Parents can choose how to use the leave — whether it’s a three-month stretch or a few days a week.

While not every company can afford to offer this benefit, perhaps there are other options to help employees who are parents. Is this something you can raise with your organization?

4. Hiring? Tell candidates it’s OK if a child appears

In Looking for a Job? Big Tech Is Still Hiring, reporters for the Wall Street Journal wrote about the tech companies that are “hoovering up talent,” bucking the trend that the pandemic is having on most industries.

As you’d probably expect, these companies are conducting interviews by videoconference.

To help set up candidates for success, here’s what recruiters at Slack Technologies tell them: It’s OK if a child appears, or the background isn’t quiet.

I love it.

5. Giving feedback? Watch out for the motherhood penalty

Earlier this month, the Harvard Business Review published How to Be an Inclusive Leader Through a Crisis. As professor Ruchika Tulshyan wrote,

“Research shows that in ‘normal’ work circumstances, women are penalized for being visible caregivers, while fathers receive a fatherhood bonus — they’re offered more money or made to believe that they’re more reliable. During the pandemic, women are bearing the disproportionate burden of responsibility for child, family, home, and healthcare-giving.”

When giving feedback or writing performance evaluations for women employees with children, be aware of the motherhood penalty. Here are two examples:

  • Are you calling out caregiving activities that negatively impacted their work, where if you flipped the situation to a male employee, you’d be celebrating it?
  • Are you referring to their productivity or reliability during the pandemic? Evaluate if your expectation for their workload was reasonable to begin with.

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

— Karen Catlin, Founder and Author of 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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