7 Characteristics of Effective Workplace Allies

by Sam Levine

Allies are people with privilege who try to use their influence to magnify the voices of underrepresented or marginalized groups and help bring their battles to the forefront of a larger discussion.

“You have to be willing to lose something—it doesn't have to be losing your life, losing your house, or losing your job—but being willing to risk something” - Malcom Glenn

#1 Advocate for others

A great ally is conscious of their privilege or influence and uses it to lift up other’s voices.

#2 Speak up against injustice

Whether they overhear a microaggression or notice a colleague using the wrong pronouns to refer to someone, they will speak up to address injustice and ensure that type of behavior, even if unintentional, is not tolerated in the workplace.

#3 Give credit where credit is due

Lift your employees up for good work and make sure other members of the team and senior leaders know about their performance.

#4 Share the spotlight

Don’t hog the mic for yourself. Make sure everyone has a chance to speak in meetings and encourage subject matter experts to regularly share their expertise and thoughts.

#5 Educate yourself

Strong allies know they need to put themselves out of their comfort zones and learn more about the experiences of others who don’t look like them.

#6 Listen

You need to not only be willing to believe others and validate their feelings, but you also need to know when to shut up and let someone else have the floor.

#7 Be human

You don’t have to have all the answers to be an ally. Mistakes happen—if you mess up on your quest to be a workplace ally, just own up to it, sincerely apologize, move on, and promise to do better next time.

Allyship is a lifelong journey and fight that can’t be won overnight. Try to focus on what you as an individual can do tomorrow to make your workplace a better, fairer environment for every employee. Then, take action to be an effective leader and workplace ally.

If employees are scared to be their true selves at work or don’t feel their voices are valued, they might be reluctant to speak up, share ideas, and volunteer for projects. This can also lead to an increase in absenteeism, burnout, and ultimately turnover, which can be costly for your organization.  Investing in diversity and inclusion (D&I) is proven to positively impact business performance. When workplaces build an inclusive team and community that embraces diversity, they see increases in innovation and revenue, according to this Harvard Business Review study. That’s why investing in diversity and inclusion should be a priority for any organization. Managers need to appreciate the unique characteristics of everyone on their teams. By leading with vulnerability, empathy, and solidarity, managers can ensure employees from all walks of life feel valued and appreciated at work.  Here’s a look at how managers can use these three skills to build an inclusive team and workplace culture.

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