Happy Black History Month: Supporting Your Black Employees
What a way to kick off Black History Month! Last week, Roz Brewer was announced as the new CEO of Walgreens, making her the only Black woman running a Fortune 500 company. (photo by Sara Stathas)
In an Essence article published last year, 45% of Black women stated that the place they experience the most racism is in the workplace. One way companies can celebrate Black History is to change the systemic boundaries that prevent Black people today from thriving at work. This includes restructuring their policies and procedures to create equity for Black employees.
How to Support Your Black Employees
Being a company that encourages its Black employees to thrive takes work. Companies must actively strengthen their inclusion efforts to create a pipeline for leadership that will reflect today's workforce.
Encourage Discourse - Do you want an inclusive work culture? Well, one major component of that is encouraging discourse. Do not cut people off or speak over them. Allow your Black employees to create space about feelings they have about the current workplace culture. People tend to retreat into themselves when they feel they are being attacked, ignored, or invalidated. If your Black employees or teammates feel like they cannot discuss an issue because someone is speaking over them or will not take action, they may start to feel isolated. This feeling could ultimately impact their motivation and other outputs. Read more about this in our Thrive article "How to Discuss Uncomfortable Topics at Work."
"Black people face system racism in the workplace constantly, do not ask them to solve your company's diversity problem."
Invest in Training - If you are a manager or leader on your team, you may consider hiring someone to help deal with issues that are out of your comfort zone. In a Fortune article last year about Black employee burnout, experts shared, "Black people face system racism in the workplace constantly, do not ask them to solve your company's diversity problem." Get comfortable with asking for help and investing in your Black employees' career development!
Be proactive, not reactive - Elevating your Black employees should not be in response to the news cycle. Make supporting your Black employees an ongoing effort. If it's not, restructure policies and language so that they are inclusive and work on providing equity to your Black employees year-round, not just during Black History Month!