The Steps to Change podcast is about introducing you to the different ways that you can help to make your workplace a more comfortable place for your employees. While you might not realise it, a lot of your peers might be in a position where through social status, sexual orientation, or race, they might be discriminated against and unheard in the workplace. In most cases, these pitfalls are a result of unconscious bias, but how can this be combatted so that everyone is comfortable whilst at work?
In this episode of the podcast, host Allen Liedkie is joined by Shane Taylor to talk about allyship. Shane has been working with Steps in some capacity for the better part of 10 years and recently joined the organisation’s internal team in late 2022. Together, Shane and Allen discuss the importance of allyship, what it means to be an active ally, and how taking on this role will lead to a more pleasant working environment for you and your colleagues.
Allyship is the process of redirecting power from places of privilege to marginalised groups. The practice of allyship involves those in more privileged positions, highlighting the issues of marginalised and unheard people and ensuring that they feel valued and heard. No matter your position in an organisation, it’s within your power to be an ally to your colleagues. By integrating allyship into performance reviews, businesses of all sizes can help to cultivate an inclusive work environment.
For organisations, the benefits of practising allyship are plain to see. For a start, successful instances of allyship will contribute towards the establishment of a more pleasant and inclusive work environment. As a result, you will be cultivating a more positive culture within your business, enthusing staff to work harder in a more comfortable environment. What’s more, allyship will lead to your organisation becoming a more desirable place for people to work, as they will see that all employees are valued.
So, how can you be a successful ally? The first thing to consider is why you want to be an ally in the workplace. You must recognise the importance of being an ally and realise the change that you can help to bring about by practising allyship with your colleagues. As with all aspects of implementing positive behavioural changes, it’s important for every team member to be pulling in the same direction towards a common goal, which is where the leadership body of your organisation must take an active role.
Below, you’ll find simple yet useful steps that you, as an individual, can take to become a more beneficial ally to your colleagues. Taking these steps to heart will allow you to make lasting improvements in your workplace for marginalised people:
One of the first steps to take in becoming a successful ally is to listen to the people around you. By taking on board the opinions of people from marginalised groups, you will gain a better understanding of their experiences. Remember, allyship is less about highlighting what you can see and more about bringing attention to invisible issues. The best way to go about becoming an ally is to really listen to the experiences of those around you and to develop a better understanding of the issues that they face.
After you’ve taken on board what others have told you, the next step is to recognise the issues and identify where you can help to make improvements. One of the most important things to recognise is your personal privilege. Privilege does not always relate to money, as it can instead refer to your personal position in the workplace and issues that you’ve avoided due to your personal circumstances. The See It stage of our program allows people to recognise when they are and aren’t being an ally to others.
Once you’ve recognised the struggles that people who are less heard have around you, you can take steps to speak up for them by using your privilege. If you are in a better position to raise an issue or to call out inappropriate behaviour, then it’s your obligation to take this action. As Shane notes in the podcast, “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”. Without taking the necessary steps to be an ally, you’re inadvertently reinforcing toxic workplace attitudes and behaviours.
The thing to remember with allyship is that you’re not moving towards an end goal but are rather on a continuous journey. You will never be done with being an ally, as there will always be people that require your support. Similarly, if you are open and accepting, you will constantly be learning new things about people from marginalised groups. By embracing your role as an ally, you will always be improving yourself and bettering the ways in which you can make your workplace a more pleasant place for peers.
Of course, allyship is not without its concerns, as certain people can be averse to the concept of allyship initially. For a lot of people, the idea of taking a more active role in promoting change and diversity is uncomfortable. However, it’s important to embrace change and trust your instincts. If you suspect that something is wrong, it probably is, so you should take positive action. Taking the first steps, no matter how small, will ease you into your newfound role as an ally for your colleagues.
Allyship is a multi-faceted topic that deserves further exploration, especially if it’s something that you hope to pursue correctly. If you’re interested in allyship and would like to learn more about how you can implement ally-like actions into your working life, reach out to the team at Steps today. Our programs integrate factors concerning allyship that help people to be better towards others, promote inclusivity and equality in the workplace, and generally enable peers to practice effective self-improvement.