In podcast episode 31, The New Dilemma: The Right Thing vs. The White Thing, we spoke about the problem white leaders face between doing what is equitable and fair, versus making decisions that maintain the status quo or favors white employees.
For many people it is easier to not rock the boat, aka maintain the status quo. This is especially beneficial to the white employee who wants to keep all the benefits given to him or her because of skin color. However, sometimes employees belonging to underrepresented groups also choose to remain silent on issues for several reasons. They include not wanting to be victimized, fear of speaking up and being rejected, or in some circumstances, they’re the recipients of benefits and are afraid of losing them.
As a minority however, choosing to accept unfairness at work has dire long-term consequences including the normalization of an unhealthy work culture. When individuals are complacent about choosing the right thing, injustice increases.
If you see yourself as an upstanding person, more so than an upstanding employee, then you have an individual responsibility to do the right thing. Whether or not your employer chooses to listen to your stance on a matter that affects people that look like you or not, you would have done your part.
The seeds may not take root, but some may scatter. There is the possibility of someone within your sphere of influence at the company learning something from you taking a position and speaking out about it.
Which is why, in our latest podcast episode, we encourage our listeners to not be silent. Silence equates to complacency about a situation.
As an individual, acknowledge what’s going on in your company and in the world around you. This may mean not pushing through something that causes you pain, but instead talking to a trusted colleague about it, if you’re unable to talk to a supervisor. We spend a large percentage of our lives working. Therefore it remains critical that you do not mute your own voice.
And if you’re a white employee, as an individual you can also help by making space for discussion and doing the right thing. Create an environment where all employees can have a safe and comfortable conversation. This goes a long way in increasing the well-being of everyone at work.
By creating a safe space for other individuals to share what’s on their mind, it demonstrates your commitment to helping promote equality. It also enables you to listen and educate yourself, through your peers, if you are uninformed about a situation.
We implore you to lean in to your discomfort. If you get a knot in your gut or experience a tinge of doubt when it comes to choices that involve underrepresented employees, go with what will positively impact the underrepresented employee. Trust us. You will win in the end. That decision will reverberate throughout the organization.
Both white employees and employees belonging to underrepresented groups must work together to hold their companies accountable if there is to be significant change.
In this episode, we shared just how much companies lose out on financially due to inequity in the workplace. Is your employer adhering to the mission and vision statements they’ll like you to follow? Performative diversity statements can cause more harm than not having one at all.
As companies are made up of their individual employees, it is up to you to demand more than rhetoric by boldly speaking up, making space for others to be heard, and holding your company accountable.
Bigger dilemmas can only be solved when we make the right choices on a smaller level. Change starts with you.