How to be a better ally in the workplace

By Fay Capstick

Being a good workplace ally is becoming ever more important. We all need to understand and protect others in the workplace including people of colour, LGBTQ+ individuals, the disabled, different religious and worldviews and workers with other needs such as neuro-diversity. This week we shall look at what being an ally in the workplace means and how you can become a better one.

What does being an ally mean?

Being an ally means not being a member of an under represented group, but standing up and taking action to support the rights of that group. The key point is that being an ally is an active and not a passive process. Here, actions really are the important thing. You can’t just think positive thoughts, you have to take positive actions.

How can I be an ally?

There are different ways that you can show your support in the workplace and thus become a better ally.

Acknowledgement: The first step is to realise any privilege that you might have and how your lived experience is different to others, so know your privilege. Once you know your privilege, the next step is to accept its existence.

Highlighting: You can highlight the needs of others or help others to be heard.

Learn: Take the time to learn about those in non-dominant groups and what life and the workplace is like for them. Truly try and learn and understand by reading first hand accounts, as those will be from the people best placed to educate you about what life is like for the less privileged. Blogs, social media and YouTube can be extremely useful for getting first hand accounts.

Intersectionality: Remember that some people may have more than one trait that you an be an ally for. Further having a trait that requires ally-ship does not mean that you cannot be an ally yourself. I am a disabled woman, but this does not prevent me from being an advocate for myself and an ally for others.

Defend: If you see a problem in the workplace, or outside, call it out. Do not stand passively by. Your defending of those less privileged can make a real difference. Support in the moment makes a real difference. Don’t wait until after an event.

Don’t speak over: Defending someone is great, but make sure you don’t speak over someone. Someone in a more privileged position speaking over you to tell others what you need is not good, so be tactful.

Don’t gaslight: If someone tells you something you said made them feel uncomfortable, or that something was said that offended them, don’t dismiss it. To dismiss it is to invalidate someone’s experience.

Everyone is different: Take the time to talk to and learn from your colleagues, but only if they feel comfortable talking about their experiences. Remember that everyone is different, so one disabled person’s experience will be different from another.

Final thoughts

As we have seen there are many things that can be done to help you to become a better ally in the workplace. However good you currently are there is always room for improvement, which will lead to a more inclusive, fairer and diverse workplace that will benefit everyone.

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