While racism in America is centuries old, the ongoing movement toward mass public corporate declarations to tackle racism is new. Some companies may be better prepared to have these conversations, having embarked on programs of structured dialogue around race and race relations several years ago after the highly publicized killings of unarmed black people here in the United States. However, there exists a considerable amount of awkwardness around this type of conversation, particularly in the workplace.
Still, avoidance of the topic is not an option. People ARE having these discussions, including in offices and on shop floor and creating a safe space for workers to do so starts at the top of the organization. Having an existing standard communication policy in place not only provides the foundation but makes this job much easier.
When we say "How to Talk to Employees About Race” what we really mean is how to address the elephant in the room these days which is the social unrest rooted in years of racial inequality, aka "systemic racism”. In this webinar we lay down some fundamental information and perceptions in the current environment as a basis for discussion on dealing with, rather than avoiding, difficult conversations centered around race and racial inequality. What we won’t do is try to solve the problem of eradicating systemic racism, but neither are we exploring this topic to set up "feel good" conversations with no real substance.
"To eradicate systemic racism, it is important for managers to empower employees and provide them with resources for having productive conversations about race," writes Wharton management professor Stephanie Creary.
Instead, we'll delve into some of the ways bias and disparate impact continue to exist in our society and, in turn, the places we go to work. Citing research and the experience of companies already engaged in this dialogue, we'll discuss how some companies have already initiated the conversation with their employees. You'll leave the session feeling better equipped to address feelings of anger, despair, or frustration that may be percolating among your employees.
The further benefit here is the potential link between inclusion and success. When workers feel they belong and that their work has purpose, they perform at incredible levels. It all begins with an open, honest, and civil exchange.
The Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM’s) recent report, The Journey to Equity and Inclusion, found a need for more workplace awareness about racial inequality. As a business owner, senior leader or manager, you’re no longer able to sit on the sidelines hoping the current focus on social justice will pass.
Conversations about race, religion, and politics, once considered off limits for the workplace, are now especially prevalent due to widespread use of social media. While talking about race makes many people uncomfortable, now is not the time for a neutral leadership style, but for empathetic support guided by core values.
Companies are challenged to take the core values down from the plaque on the wall and live by them. The solution is to have a plan for company leaders and managers to de-escalate conflict and establish common ground by offering healthy opportunities for respectful workplace dialogue.