When I was growing up getting “the talk” meant having a somewhat awkward conversation with your parent about the birds & the bees. Today having “the talk” means something entirely different and more ominous especially if you are a person of color.
Recently Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo shared that he’d had “the talk” with his son; it covered how to act when stopped by a police officer. What have we come to?
Hearing employees discuss topics like police brutality, religion, politics, and LGBTQ+ can catch even well-intentioned leaders by surprise. Some are confused when it comes to having constructive conversations about these emotionally loaded issues. Where should we look for information about social issues and identities such as race, ability, gender, and sexuality which may impact their diverse employees? Where do leaders find the information they need?
Learn respectfully. There may be individuals within your company who have suffered from discrimination in its many forms. Be forthright about wanting to understand their situations and ask them to share their story if they are comfortable doing so. If a Latinx shares information behind Día de Los Muertos or if someone whose family has suffered from “food insecurity” or homelessness tells you of their experiences and feelings, listen. It means they trust you to receive what they’re saying.
Build opportunities for more teaching. Support initiatives that allow for teaching opportunities. Ensure that side projects like working on diversity are recognized publicly and in performance reviews. Bring in external consultants for training. Make learning about social justice issues an organizational responsibility, not just an individual one.
Keep in mind we are all individuals. Refrain from painting every member of a group with the same brush. We may have strong opinions one way or another about the reality of “systemic racism”, law enforcement, who to blame for the violence.
More people are looking beyond work-life balance to work-life integration. Walking the walk of your core values and taking a stand on social justice issues is becoming a competitive advantage for companies today.