written by
Michele Heyward

Rooting Out Racism As A Manager

DiversityandInclusion Anti-racism Career 4 min read
Racism in America is centuries old, but the mass public and corporate declarations to tackle it is new!

While Americans have been protesting on the streets against racism, there is another form of anti-racism measure that needs to be addressed off the streets – it is in the workplace. Some organizations have committed to becoming anti-racist and have started taking actions for it as well. That’s a good step and is in line with the need of the time. As per research, the way organizations respond to diversity-related events that go viral on media has a psychological impact on their employees and can either help them or create a feeling of discrimination.

Having said that, black workers are under enormous pressure, stress, and anxiety right now. The pandemic and the racial upheaval have taken a toll on them. So how can leaders, from C-Suite executives to team managers help their employees of color especially black by rooting out racism from the workplace? Here are a few ways to start:

Be Anti-racist!

Yes, it is as simple as that. While you, as a manager, might have promoted diversity & inclusion practices in your company, now is the time to be explicitly anti-racist. And this might be a new concept for you. Being anti-racist is to acknowledge that racism has existed in your company and people of color in your organization are in an unprivileged position.

Do an in-depth analysis of your workplace. Sometimes racism is so deeply embedded that it isn’t obvious. You need to check your policies, company culture, norms, unspoken routines, and questionable practices. You will find that some individuals will have greater access to opportunities, while others will have less. All because of their race.

As a manager vying to be anti-racist, do a top-down analysis of the systemic racism within your workplace. This critical examination includes hiring practices, retention, promotion, task evaluations, and performance recognition among others. Believe me, when I say, only doing this one step will help you point out so many racial prejudices and issues within the organization. How you solve them is the key to creating an anti-racist company.

Own The Systemic Racism

This is closely linked to you being anti-racist. Once you have done a thorough analysis of all the problematic areas within your company, own them the way you should. Most managers are reticent to talk about racial inequality, but these conversations are critical and should be started now more than ever.

Just come out of your shining glass tower and ditch the flowery language to lessen the blow. Talk about racial inequality at your workplace, acknowledge it, and discuss how you can sustain and promote equity among all employees. Do not be defensive about what you find and what your marginalized employees reply to you in return. The white fragility should be kept aside in favor of committing to creating an equitable environment. You should be authentic and genuine in your language. Do not go to your black employees or coworkers on how to address them.

Initiate Safe Spaces

It is the responsibility of Executives, Managers, Human Resources Professionals, and D&I advocates to create a safe space where black employees can feel free to speak up. They should feel safe while sharing their concerns and the company norms they wish to be changed.

When your team members feel safe discussing racism openly, there are high chances that these discussions will have a sustainable and more lasting impact on the progress of your company. Most of the black employees are scared to say anything because of the fear that if they say anything that offends their white manager, they might incur retaliation later. You need to change that. Speaking about microaggressions, conscious biases, and systemic racism is their right. It is your responsibility to hear them, own what they say, and do your best to change the behaviors and policies they encounter.

According to research by New York’s Center for Talent Innovation, about 38% of black professionals feel that it is unacceptable to speak out because of the bias. This silence makes them vulnerable and can alienate their growth. You must let them talk if you want to root out racism completely.

Level The Playing Field

As mentioned, conduct internal research to find the areas of bias and racism. Determine what metrics you should use to change the work dynamics for your black employees & other employees of color. Start making small changes to eradicate those issues.

You need to have bias interrupters at a place like changing your hiring practices, distributing the work assignments equally, evaluating the performance on the same level, and deciding the compensation and salaries based on experience & talent and not color, etc. If you want to be an anti-racist manager, you want to initiate the same playing field for all your employees regardless of color and ethnic background. Give them the same chance & opportunities and see the change you bring in your organization.

Rooting out racism as a manager is not an option, but it is mandatory. If not now, then when? If not you then who?
Workplace Career Advancement DEI Diversity and Inclusion Workplace Culture Inclusive