3 Tips for Increasing Happiness at Work

Given that many of us will spend up to one-third of our lives at work, it’s not surprising that happiness at work is a topic of concern. Research shows that our happiness at work determines how motivated, productive, and engaged we are.

As an ACHIEVE trainer for the Psychological Safety in the Workplace workshop, I have had many discussions with participants and teams about workplace well-being and satisfaction. I am often asked, “What actions and circumstances best lead to happiness at work?” 

The answer? Happiness at work is complex. Various influences and factors contribute to our well-being at work including organizational culture, the alignment between our values and the organization’s, and the level of job compensation and security.

While some of these factors may be beyond our control, happiness can be enhanced through specific behavioural and cognitive practices, referred to in positive psychology as “positive interventions.”

Here are three positive interventions you can use to increase your happiness at work:

Strive for the Happiness Zone

Research shows that 40 percent of personal happiness results from our own actions, behaviours, and thought patterns. This 40 percent zone is where you have some control over your happiness and where practicing positive interventions will be most helpful. However, this practice will be different for everyone. Some people are happiest when they accomplish a goal at work, while others feel most happy when they are connected and collaborating with colleagues. It’s important to understand which activities contribute to individual happiness at work.

Prioritize the behaviours, actions, and conditions that lead to a sense of well-being during the workday.

One way to begin is to prioritize the behaviours, actions, and conditions that lead to a sense of well-being during the workday. Take note of activities that seem to uplift your mood during the week. Carefully observe your workdays, becoming mindful of the activities, behaviours, or situations that create a sense of a good day versus a bad day. Look for a pattern across the days and weeks. Are there certain activities, situations, or circumstances that consistently seem to contribute to a positive workday? Make a conscious effort to prioritizing doing more of them.

Focus on Meaningful Interactions

The importance of interpersonal connections at work is noted in ACHIEVE’s book, The Culture Question: How to Create a Workplace Where People Like to Work. People are more apt to feel satisfied and engaged when they have positive relationships at work.

A first step to creating meaningful connections at work is to improve your listening skills and increase the depth and value of your interactions. During a workplace interaction, consciously choose to actively listen to what someone has to say and invite them to share more during the conversation. Researchers refer to this as listening generously – we allow the person to have the entire spotlight to feel genuinely listened to and validated.

Simple responses like “That’s great, I’d like to hear more,” or “It sounds like this is important to you, I’d like to learn more,” can make a team member feel more valued, resulting in increased well-being at work. As the listener, you feel good too because you are creating a more meaningful interaction. Remember, the more connected and positive interactions we have with work colleagues, the happier our work experience.

Generate Gratitude

Completing a gratitude exercise even once a week has been proven to increase happiness over time. There is no better place to practice gratitude than at work, given the amount of time we spend there.

People are more apt to feel satisfied and engaged when they have positive relationships at work.

One of the most simple and effective ways to practice gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal. Record the things in your workweek you felt grateful for. Examples may include compliments you received about your work, small wins or accomplishments, or completing a difficult task. To make this team-based, try keeping a gratitude jar.

Invite your colleagues to join you in recording things they are grateful for. Use sticky notes, or if you are a virtual team, post something on a virtual collaborative whiteboard. On Friday, go through the notes. The best part of this simple exercise is the immediate uplift in mood and perspective shift that occurs from recognizing just how many things went well during the workweek.

Workplace happiness takes effort and practice, but the result is improved well-being, greater productivity, and stronger workplace connections – all of which can result in decreased stress and more work satisfaction. Happiness at work is truly worth the effort.

By:Jennifer Kelly

Source: 3 Tips for Increasing Happiness at Work | ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership

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Happiness at Work: 10 Tips for How to be Happy at Work

Impact of positive psychological capital on employee well-being over time

Social Psychology and Organizational Behaviour

Psychology for Leaders

Work–Life Balance Policy and Practice: Understanding Line Manager Attitudes and Behaviors

Leadership and Motivation: The Effective Application of Expectancy Theory

Work values and job rewards—Theory of job satisfaction

Factors influencing employee satisfaction in the police service: the case of Slovenia

A New Perspective on Equity Theory: The Equity Sensitivity Construct

Job Satisfaction of Older Workers as a Factor of Promoting Labour Market Participation in the EU

How Employee Recognition Programmes Improve Retention

Survey: Only 7% of Workers Say They’re Most Productive in the Office

The job satisfaction-job performance relationship

Predicting absenteeism and turnover intentions by past absenteeism and work attitudes

Five mistaken beliefs business leaders have about innovation

 

 

Why Workplace Empathy Won’t Keep Employees Happy

“Empathy is one of the values we’ve had from our founding.” That’s what Chelsea MacDonald, SVP of people and operations at Ada, a tech startup that builds customer-service platforms, told me when we first got on the phone for this story in June. When the company was in its early stages, with about 50 people, empathy was “a bit more ad hoc,” because you could bump into colleagues at lunch. But that was pre-pandemic, and before a hiring surge.

Now, MacDonald says, empathy is built on communication (as many as five times a week, she communicates in some way to the entire company about empathy), through tools (specifically, one that tracks whom people communicate with most and who gets left out), through intimacy (cultivated through special-interest groups) and through transparency (senior leaders share notes after every meeting). At various points in our discussion, MacDonald describes empathy as “more than just, ‘Hey, care about other people’” and “making space for other people to make mistakes.”

She was one of a dozen executives whose communications directors reached out when I tweeted about the office trend of “empathy.” Adriana Bokel Herde, the chief people officer at the software company Pegasystems, told me about the three-hour virtual empathy-training session the company had created for managers—and how nearly 90% had joined voluntarily.

Kieran Snyder, the CEO of Textio, a predictive-writing company, said the biggest surprise about empathy in the workplace is that it and accountability are “flip sides of the same coin.” “We had an engineer give some feedback that was really striking,” she told me. “She said that the most empathetic thing her manager could do for her was be really clear about expectations. Let me be an adult and handle my deliverables so that I know what to do.”

All of these leaders see empathy as a path forward after 17 months of societal and professional tumult. And employees do feel that it’s missing from the workplace: according to the 2021 State of Workplace Empathy Study, administered by software company Businessolver, only 1 in 4 employees believed empathy in their organizations was “sufficient.”

Companies know they must start thinking seriously about addressing their empathy deficit or risk losing workers to companies that are. Still, I’ve also heard from workers who think it’s all nonsense: the latest in a long string of corporate attempts to distract from toxic or exploitative company culture, yet another scenario in which employers implore workers to be honest and vulnerable about their needs, then implicitly or explicitly punish them for it.

If you’ve read all this and are still confused about what workplace empathy actually is, you’re not alone. Outside the office, developing empathy means trying to understand and share the feelings or experiences of someone else. Empathy is different from sympathy, which is more one-directional: you feel sad for what someone else is going through, but you have little understanding of what it feels like. Because empathy is predicated on experience, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to cultivate. At best, it’s expanded sympathy; at worst, it’s trying to force connections between wildly different lived experiences (see especially: white people attempting to empathize with the experience of systemic racism).

Applied in a corporate setting, the very idea of empathy begins to fall apart. Is it bringing their whole selves, to use an HR buzzword, to work? Is it cultivating niceness? Is it making space for sympathy and allowing people to air grievances, or is it leadership modeling vulnerability? Over the course of reporting this story, I talked to more than a dozen people from the C-suites of midsize and large companies that had decided to make empathy central to their corporate messaging or strategy.

Some plans were more fleshed out and self-interrogating. Some thought an empathy training available to three time zones was enough. Others understood empathy as small gestures, like looking at a co-worker’s calendar, seeing they’ve been in meetings all day, and giving them a 10-minute pause to get water before you meet with them.

But where did this current push for workplace empathy begin? According to Johnny C. Taylor Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and author of the upcoming book Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval, it sort of started with, well, him. In the fall of 2020, he’d been hearing a similar refrain from businesses: everyone was tired. Tired of the pandemic; of stalled diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts; of their bosses and their employees.

When he looked at the 2020 State of Workplace Empathy Study, then in its fourth year, the reasons for that exhaustion became clear. People were tired because they were working all the time, and trying to sort out caregiving responsibilities, and dealing with oscillating threat levels from COVID-19. But they were also tired, he believed, because there was a generalized empathy deficit.

Read More: Hourly Workers Are Demanding Better Pay and Benefits—and Getting Them

That “empathy deficit” became the cornerstone of Taylor’s State of Society address in November 2020. “Much of the resurgence of DE&I programming in the wake of the George Floyd killing was supposed to encourage open conversation and mutual understanding,” he said. “But it often bypassed empathy. Well-meaning programs devolve into grievance sessions … rather than listening and trying to relate.”

SHRM is an incredibly influential organization, with more than 300,000 members in 165 countries. So while it’s not as if empathy efforts were nonexistent before, Taylor’s speech encouraged them. Even if members weren’t there to listen to his words, his message—and the data from the study—began to filter into HR departments, leaving a trail of optional learning modules and Zoom trainings in its wake.

The backlash started shortly thereafter. Taylor acknowledges as much. “I see these companies jumping on it,” he told me. “But it’s not an initiative. It’s not a buzzword. It’s a cultural principle. If you make this promise, as a company, if you put this word out there, your employees are going to hold you to it.” He adds that empathy should go both ways: “There’s an expectation that employees can mess up; employers should be able to mess up too.”

In the case of employees, many are frustrated by perceived hypocrisy. (All employees who spoke critically about their employers for this story requested anonymity out of concern for their jobs.) One woman told me her company, Viacom, has been doing a lot of messaging about empathy, particularly when it comes to mental health. At the same time, it has switched to a health plan that’s more restrictive when it comes to accessing mental-health professionals and care.

(Viacom attributes the change to a shift in policy on the part of their insurance provider and says it has worked to remedy it.) Other employees report repeated invocations of empathy from upper management in staff meetings, but little training on how to implement it with those they supervise. As one female employee at a performing-arts nonprofit told me, “In a one-on-one meeting with my boss where I was openly struggling and tried to discuss it, I was told that mental health is important, but improving my job performance was more important.”

A customer-service representative for a fintech company said empathy had been centered as a “core value” of the organization: something they were meant to practice with one another but also with customers. To quantify worker empathy, the company sends out customer-satisfaction surveys (CSATs) after each interaction. It found that dips in CSAT scores, which were measured by an automated system, reliably happened when a customer had a long hold time, which had little to do with whether the representative modeled empathy. Yet employees were still promoted based on these scores.

The central tension emerges again and again: “There’s an irony, because there’s the equity that you want to present to employees—while also giving special consideration and solutions for specific situations,” Joyce Kim, the chief marketing officer of Genesys, which provides customer service and call-center tech for businesses, told me. “Those two are often incongruent.”

Put another way, it’s hard, at least from a leadership perspective, to cultivate equal treatment for everyone while also making exceptions for everyone. If you allow an employee to work different hours, have different expectations of accessibility or have more leeway because of an illness, how is that fair to those who don’t need those things? How, in other words, do you accommodate difference while still maximizing profits?

What companies are trying to do, at heart, is train employees to treat one another not like productivity robots, but like people: people with kids, people with responsibilities, people shouldering the weight of systemic discrimination. But that runs counter to the main goal of most companies, which is to create and distribute a product—whether that’s a service, an object or a design—as efficiently as possible. They might dress up that goal in less capitalistic language, but the end point remains the same: profits, the more the better, with as little friction as possible.

Within this framework, the frictionless employee is the ideal employee. But a lack of friction is a privilege. It means looking and acting and behaving like people in power, which, at least in American society, means being white, male and cisgender; with few or no caregiving responsibilities; no physical or mental disabilities; no strong accent or awkward social tics or physical reminders, like “bad teeth,” of growing up poor; and no needs for accommodations—religious, dietary or otherwise. For decades, offices were filled with people who fit this bill, or who were able to hide or groom away the parts of themselves that did not.

The women and people of color who were admitted into these spaces did so with an unspoken caveat that they would make themselves amenable to the status quo. They didn’t bring their “whole selves” to work. Not even close. They brought only the parts that would blend in with the rest of the workforce. If you were sexually harassed, you didn’t make a fuss about it. If someone used a racial slur, same deal. If there were Christmas celebrations that made the one Jewish employee feel weird, that person was expected not to make waves. Bad behavior wasn’t friction, per se. But a worker whose identity already created a form of friction complaining about it? That sure was.

Historians of labor have pointed out that this posture was particularly prevalent in office settings, where salaried workers were often saturated in narratives of a great, unified purpose. If employees took care of the company, and flattened themselves into as close to the image of the ideal worker as possible, the company would take care of them, in compensation and eventual pension. Which is one of many reasons that white collar office workers have been resistant to unionization efforts, which felt, as sociologist C. Wright Mills has noted, like a crass, almost hysterical form of office friction.

Machinists and longshoremen were laborers and had no recourse other than the big stick of the union to advocate for themselves. Office workers could solve conflict man to man, boss to employee, like, well, the white gentlemen that they were—or at the very least pretended to be.

This mindset began to erode over the course of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s—first, when massive waves of layoffs and benefit cuts destabilized the myth of the benevolent parent company. But the white maleness of the culture also began to (very gradually) shift in the wake of legal protections against discrimination related to gender, age, disability and, only recently, sexual orientation.

White male workers remained dominant in most industries, particularly in leadership roles. But they began to lose their unquestioned monopoly on the norms of the workplace. Some changes were embraced; others, especially around sexual harassment and racial discrimination, were changed via legal force.

Read More: The Pandemic Reset the Balance Between Workers and Employers. How Bosses Respond Will Shape the Future of Work

The overarching goal of HR departments in the past, going back to the field’s origins in “scientific management” of factory assembly lines, was keeping employees healthy enough to work efficiently. After 1964, their task expanded to include compliance with legal protections, in addition to the continued work of keeping employees healthy and “happy” enough to do their work well. “Unhappiness,” after all, is expensive—according to a Gallup estimate from 2013, dissatisfaction costs U.S. companies $450 million to $550 million a year in lost productivity. Unhappiness, in other words, is friction.

But as the workplace continues to diversify, how do you maintain the worker “happiness” of a bunch of different sorts of people, from different backgrounds, with different cultural contexts? There are some obvious fixes: continuing to erode the power of monoculture (in which one, limited way of being/working becomes the way of being/working to which all other employees must aspire); recruiting and retaining managers who actually know how to manage; creating a culture that encourages taking time off. But usually, the proposed solution takes the form of the HR initiative.

Take the 2010s push for “wellness,” which manifested in the form of mental-health seminars, gym memberships and free Fitbits. You can view these initiatives as part of a desire to reduce health-insurance premiums. But you can also see them as a means of confronting the reality of a workforce that, in the wake of the Great Recession, was anxious about their finances and careers, particularly as more and more workers were replaced by subcontractors, who enjoyed even fewer protections and privileges.

Or consider the push for DE&I programs in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests in 2015. These initiatives aim to acknowledge a perceived source of friction—the fact that a company is very white, its leadership remains “snowcapped,” or the workplace is quietly or aggressively hostile to Black and brown employees—while also providing a proposed solution. The corporate DE&I initiative communicates that we see this problem, we’re working to solve it, so you can talk less about it.

Wellness and DE&I initiatives are frequently unsatisfying and demoralizing, particularly for those workers they are ostensibly designed to benefit. They often lean heavily on the labor of those with the least power within an organization. And they approach systemic problems with solutions designed to disrupt people’s lives as little as possible. (A three-hour webinar will not create a culture of inclusion.) But the superficiality is part of the point.

Contain the friction, but do so by creating as little additional friction as possible, because a series of eruptions is easier to contain than a truly paradigm-shifting one that threatens the status quo and, by extension, the company’s public profile and profitability. According to a 2021 SHRM report, in the five years since DE&I initiatives swept the corporate world, 42% of Black employees, 26% of Asian employees and 21% of Hispanic employees reported experiencing unfair treatment based on their race or ethnicity.

The ramifications of racial inequity (lost productivity, turnover and absenteeism) over the past five years may have cost the U.S. up to $172 billion. But instead of acknowledging what it is about the company culture that makes it difficult to retain diverse hires, or what might have to change to recoup those losses, companies blame individual workers who were a “bad fit.” DE&I initiatives don’t fail because there’s a “diversity pipeline problem.” It’s because those in power aren’t willing to relinquish any of it.

A similar contradiction applies to the rise of “corporate empathy.” At its heart, it’s a set of policies, initiatives and messaging developed to respond to the “friction” of a workforce unsettled by the pandemic, a continuing racial reckoning and sustained political anxiety, capped off by an uprising, on a workday, days after most of the workforce had returned from winter breaks. Many empathy initiatives are well-intentioned. But coming from an employer, they still, ultimately, say: We see you are breaking in two, we are too, but how can we collectively still work as if we’re not?

Therein lies the empathy trap. So long as organizations view employees with different needs as sources of friction, and solutions to those needs as examples of unfairness, they will continue to promote and retain employees with the capacity to make their personalities, needs and identities as frictionless as possible. They will encourage “bringing the whole self to work,” but only on a good day. They will fetishize “sharing personal stories,” but only when the ramifications don’t interfere with the product or create interpersonal conflict. This is what happens when you conceive of empathy as allowances: Those who would benefit from it become less desirable workers. Their friction is centered, and their value decreases.

Our society is built around the goals of capitalism—and capitalism, and the ethos of individualism that thrives alongside it, is inherently in conflict with empathy. The qualities that make our bodies, selves and minds most amenable to those goals are prized above all else, and it is HR’s primary task to further cultivate those qualities, whether through “enrichment” or “wellness,” even when the most significant obstacle to either is the workplace itself.

Why do the declarations of empathy feel so hollow? Because growth and profit do not reward it. Companies, HR professionals, managers, even the best trained can do only so much. A large portion of the dissatisfaction that employees feel is the result of actively toxic company policy, thoughtless management and executives clinging to the status quo. But a lot of it, too, is anger at systems that extend beyond the office:

The fraying social safety nets, the decaying social bonds, the frameworks set up to devalue women’s work, the stubborn endurance of racism, the lack of protections or fair pay for the workers whose labor we ostensibly value most. We don’t know how to make people care about other people. No wonder workplace initiatives can feel so laughably incomplete. How do you cultivate a healthy workplace culture when it’s rooted in poisoned soil? “It’s not just a workplace empathy deficit,” Taylor told me. “It’s an American cultural deficit.”

By Anne Helen Petersen

Petersen is co-author of the upcoming book Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working From Home

Source: Why Workplace Empathy Won’t Keep Employees Happy | Time

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Contents:

Find out how emotionally intelligent you are by taking our emotional intelligence quiz.

And Mind Tools Premium club members and Corporate users can listen to our exclusive interview with Daniel Goleman

Cynthia D. Fisher; Neal M. Ashkanasy. “The Emerging Role of Emotions in Work Life: An Introduction

Hoffmann, Elizabeth A. (2016). “Emotions and Emotional Labor at Worker-Owned Businesses: Deep Acting, Surface Acting, and Genuine Emotions”. The Sociological Quarterly. 57: 152–173. doi:10.1111/tsq.12113. S2CID 145338476.

McQuerrey, Lisa. “Eight Steps to End Drama in The Workplace”. Retrieved 20 April 2014.

“Interview with Harry Prosen M.D. Psychiatric Consultant Bonobo Species Survival Plan”. Retrieved 11 August 2011.

Rosenberg, Marshall B. (2005). “5: Connecting with others empathically”. Speak peace in a world of conflict: what you say next will change your world. Puddledancer Press. pp. 240. ISBN 978-1892005175.

Empathy Definitions by Edwin Rutsch from the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy.

Mirrored emotion by Jean Decety from the University of Chicago.

Empathy and the brain by Gwen Dewar published in Parenting Science.

Empathic listening skills How to listen so others will feel heard, or listening first aid (University of California).

Study: People literally feel pain of others – mirror-touch synesthesia Live Science, 17 June 2007.

Equitable Workplaces Require Getting Over Fear of Conflict

Many employers made dramatic commitments after the murder of George Floyd last year about making their workplaces (and leadership teams) more equitable. Despite this, most of the tech industry, which built its reputation on speed, scale, and innovation, is falling short—and it’s because of fear.

Fear of open conflict is destroying workplaces, and it’s disproportionately harming Black and Latinx women workers. It is limiting any possibility for the 21st-century workforce to reflect the demographics of this country. But it’s possible to lead in a different way.

We want to take you through a few aspects of our working relationship, as leaders of the nonprofit Code2040, which is committed to proportional representation of Black and Latinx people at all levels of tech leadership. Our partnership is based on a mutual commitment to eradicating the ways that fear of conflict and systemic racism maintain white, male dominance in the vast majority of workplaces.

As a Latinx woman manager (Karla), and a Black woman direct report (Mimi), we saw our working relationship as racial equity leaders in tech as a unique opportunity to unpack, unlearn, and redesign relational systems that didn’t serve us. In the years that we‘ve worked together at Code2040, we cultivated a relationship based in candor and feedback, which allowed us to unearth the variety of ways we were socially, professionally, and economically discouraged from bringing the full breadth of our talents to our work.

We noticed that the obstacles to our leadership within and outside of Code2040 fell into a few similar categories, and we began communicating with other women of color in tech and at non-profits, to further develop our hypotheses. It was in those conversations we understood that not only were we not alone. We were all in the same compression chamber, and it was sucking the oxygen out of our capacity to lead.

Failing to recognize common tropes (aka racism)

Stereotypes about Black and Latinx women reinforce themselves and serve to police behavior that could build Black and Latinx power. This is called stereotype threat: The hyper-awareness that one could be confirming a stereotype actually impacts our performance—and sometimes confirms the stereotype about our group. For example, one common trope about Black women is that Black women are intimidating or angry.

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How can mentorship in the workplace help to close the job equity gap? Award-winning diversity, inclusion and mentorship expert Janice Omadeke shares her personal mentorship journey along with four helpful takeaways, as she discusses how women and allies can start closing the job equity gap through mentorship. Janice Omadeke | Change Maker & Entrepreneur

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Trying to never come across as intimidating or angry can be such a focus that it impacts a Black woman’s ability to participate fully in contentious conversations or projects. Essentially, knowing that avoiding conflict with white folks is key to being seen as agreeable and therefore to being safe at work, a Black woman might hold back feedback, edits, or observations that actually could benefit the team and build her standing as a leader in the organization.

We’ve had moments in our journey together where anti-Blackness and Latinx erasure supported assumptions that Mimi was pulling the strings (anti-Blackness) and Karla was being manipulated (Latinx erasure). When Karla became CEO and chose to restructure our organization there were whispers and even reports to the board that Karla’s decision was made because of Mimi’s influence. Stereotype threat on both of our parts meant that Karla being decisive threatened blowback on Mimi as being controlling, or Karla moving more slowly reinforced stereotypes of her being too emotional.

What you can do instead:

  • Educate yourself on how racism, sexism, and xenophobia are commonly leveraged to police women of color’s behavior or even our very presence in the world.
  • Use Karla’s CADREES acronym, which describes the ways in which racism is manifesting in your perception of others. CADREES is Comparison, Assumption, Disproportionate Anger/Punishment/Fear, Resentment, Envy and Erasure, Suspicion.
  • Do not vilify Black folks for the actions that white men are promoted for, such as giving critical feedback on product direction, or lauding their own accomplishments.

Discouraging conflict and punishing candor

In the first few months at Code2040, Karla made a decision Mimi vehemently disagreed with, and Mimi tried to give feedback unemotionally. Weeks later, Karla said “You know, you can cry or even yell with me, and I won’t think you less of a professional.” Never before or since had Mimi been told that she could bring the wholeness of her passion to work without risking being perceived as emotional or angry.

Through the coded language of “professionalism,” Black women are taught to shrink themselves into smaller and less offensive packages through feedback on things like the (lack of) appropriateness of their natural hair, the unfriendliness of their facial expressions, or the tone of their voice.

Tone policing, where the content of someone’s message is ignored because of the listener’s feelings about the way it  was delivered, is a common silencing tool used against Black women. It’s often used when a candid conversation feels threatening to a white person or when the white person is being triggered because they perceive a conflict coming on, and want to derail the conversation or deflect the feedback.

What you can do instead:

  • Pause and reflect. It is important to pull away from your fight, flight, freeze, and appease responses. White supremacy thrives on urgency.
  • Ensure that in tough conversations, you are focusing on the content of the message rather than the delivery.
  • Remember that limiting candor to opinions devoid of feeling often eliminates opportunities for candor altogether.

Grounding feedback in anti-Blackness

Black women are consistently denied direct feedback on their work. When it’s given, it’s often on their communication style, rather than content, systems building, or strategy. Too often, Black women are denied advancement opportunities because they are not seen as a “good culture fit” by white leadership.

Culture fit is often a coded way to suggest that the person in question has not assimilated into white culture or the white standards of professionalism of that particular workplace, or that the person in question challenges authority, is unwilling to be silenced, or points out behaviors or systems that leadership would rather not recognize.

Knowing that feedback for Black women is almost always cloaked in anti-Blackness, Karla took explicit care at the beginning of our management relationship to understand Mimi’s prior experiences with managers and how they might inform Mimi’s relationship to feedback and power.

Karla designed explicit growth arcs, allowed Mimi to make mistakes without punitive consequences, and listened to Mimi’s experience of the workplace. When feedback about Mimi was grounded in anti-Blackness, Karla learned to push team members to articulate their feedback explicitly and challenged them to examine where anti-Blackness was creeping in.

What you can do instead: 

  • Accept that anti-Blackness is a material factor that will limit all Black staff. If you think anti-Blackness never shows up, you haven’t paused or learned enough to identify it.
  • Go to Black women directly and privately with actionable, non-personality-based feedback. Focus on content, ideas, strategy, and deliverables.
  • Develop your own resilience for conflict and candor especially with staff of color. Work with therapists and/or coaches with expertise in racial equity to develop skills and learn tools to help you discern between when you are triggered because a) someone has violated a legitimate boundary of yours versus b) you expect Black compliance or deference and you’re not getting it.
  • Consider framing like “values match” or “culture add,” when hiring and assessing performance. When designed well, a set of “values match” criteria can help assess whether a candidate or employee is aligned with explicit performance or achievement values rather than implicit cultural values.

Invisibilizing Latinx women

Latinx women’s leadership is typically accepted only when it is helpful but invisible. If Latinx women are unwilling to be invisible, the consequences for their visibility can be career-ending. One of Karla’s superpowers as a leader is her uncommon depth of empathy and her willingness to be vulnerable at group level. This skill plays into her gift of connecting patterns to detect shifts in a team, company, or even an industry or culture before they happen.

As VP of Programs, Karla’s vulnerability was often seen as useful when it was behind closed doors—for example, to help quell discord between two staff members. But when deployed organization-wide, or publicly, Karla often got feedback that her vulnerability was discomfiting and unwelcomed, even when that vulnerability created positive visibility and insightful pattern spotting. There were moments when she was challenged as too weak to lead or too radical to be palatable—even when those sentiments conflicted with each other. Once, Karla received feedback from a leader that their “life would be so much easier” if she didn’t lead so vulnerably.

The sentiment was astute in that the rules of power worked differently at Code2040 because of Karla’s leadership, but that caused resentment from many, because of the work that was required to understand more equitable ways of distributing power. White folks often resent when the rules of the workplace that have supported their success and hegemony are challenged, and often prefer that the challenger simply disappear, rather than lay bare the places where upgraded skills are required in order to succeed in the 21st century workplace.

What you can do instead: 

  • Encourage women of color to take stretch opportunities. Don’t penalize them for learning.
  • Factor in the social consequences that come from women of color stepping into the spotlight. Make a plan to protect their social capital.

Today we announced that after three years as CEO, Karla is moving on from her day-to-day work at Code2040, and Mimi is taking the helm as CEO. Though we’re both a bit grief-stricken to lose this partnership, it has been the formative professional experience of a lifetime. We hope that sharing a glimpse into our journey gives you a sense of the power of shared leadership, a taste of the hope and creativity available when you brazenly fight anti-Blackness and Latinx erasure, and the joy of building a place where Black and Latinx people can lead.

By: Mimi Fox Melton and Karla Monterroso

Source: Equitable workplaces require getting over fear of conflict

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4 Ways You Can Tackle Racial Discrimination In Your Workplace

Group portrait of a creative business team standing outdoors, three quarter length, close up

Racial discrimination is a global issue that has been an ongoing and commonly ignored problem. Staying silent has proven to be deadly, making one complicit in the system of oppression. 2020 has proven to be a historical year surrounding the pandemic, and now, the uprising against racial injustice after George Floyd’s recent death.

Protests have spanned across the nation with over 30 countries bringing awareness to the racism that exists today. These protests in combination with social media have exposed companies, brands, individuals and even the NFL for their behaviors, comments and practices.

While many brands are posting black squares in response to #blackouttuesday or tweeting #blacklivesmatter, very few are creating conversations or doing anything more than that. David Weisenfeld, J.D., XpertHR podcast host, advised: “Don’t make a statement just to make a statement. It needs to be meaningful.” More than ever, consumers and communities are looking to brands and individuals to see how they’re responding to the protests and what action they’re taking to promote equality and social justice.

There are four ways employers can take meaningful action to tackle racism in the workplace.

Keep The Conversation Going

This is a turning point in not only the workplace but throughout the world. The first step is acknowledging the injustices currently present and expressing your commitment to doing better. It’s critical that there are actions to back up your words or else they’ll remain empty promises. Employers can do this by initiating productive and respectful discussions, forming employee resource groups, training on preventing harassment and discrimination and creating channels where employees feel safe speaking up about racial issues.

Chief people officer at PMI Worldwide, Tammy Perkins, said, it’s important for managers to seek input from missing voices to help obtain different ideas for a diverse point of view. Jessica Lambrecht, founder of The Rise Journey, explained “ensuring you have diverse voices represented at all levels of the organization will help to create an inclusive workplace.”

Tina Charisma, founder of Charisma Campaign, explained “diversified work forces support empathy and compassion between people beyond their race in that the awareness shared during conversations goes on to influence relationships and eventually work practices.”

Embed Anti-Racism Into Your Values, Training And Actions

Building a stronger, healthier and better workplace culture is dependent on having a solid set of core values that are integrated into every policy, decision and process. Now is the time to denounce any weak policies, behaviors, partnerships and client relationships that contradict your company values. Maudette Uzoh, owner of Amazing Days Nursery, said “companies should focus on how they can cultivate an environment where it’s impossible for racism of any sort to sprout or thrive.”

Anti-racism training should never be conducted to check-the-box, but to educate and drive positive change. Training alone isn’t enough to shift people’s perspectives. This is because racism exists in attitudes, cultural messages, stereotypes and beliefs due to implicit bias. Companies can actively reduce bias through training along with embedding processes, policies and expectations that help create a culture rooted in diversity and inclusion.

Ultimately, it’s management’s responsibility to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and the value it brings to the company as well as holding others accountable. Furthermore, they need to actively communicate their stance on racial discrimination and what won’t be tolerated along with the consequences for violation. Racism, in any form, should never be overlooked, excused or tolerated, regardless of someone’s rank or title.

Spread Awareness

Aside from conversations, employers can spread awareness by providing resources to educate individuals about the culture of racism and the history of different races. Most individuals are unaware of racial injustice and the comments they unconsciously make towards their BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) colleagues.

The unfortunate reality is victims of racism often remain silent for fear of retaliation or being unfairly judged. This is where management falls short because they turn a blind eye to the discriminatory comments made or downplay the severity of the remarks or behavior.

More awareness needs to be brought to racial discrimination. Justifying or letting one comment slide sets the tone that racism is acceptable. This is how toxic cultures breed. It starts with one incident that’s overlooked and then turns into two, five, ten and soon becomes the norm.

Companies need to hold themselves accountable on what they stand for as well as bringing more awareness to social issues by utilizing their platforms to stand up for the cause. Publishing a statement on the company website, similar to Ben & Jerry’s, is a powerful way to show support for the movement and take meaningful action. Taking one look at Ben & Jerry’s website or social media platforms, there’s no question they are fighting against white supremacy.

Likewise, on their website, they share four ways readers can dismantle white supremacy in addition to releasing a new ice cream flavor called Justice Remix’d. This has undoubtedly given Ben & Jerry’s a competitive edge over other ice cream companies such as Halo Top, Carvel or Breyers who have yet to acknowledge the current situation.

Cultivate Diversity And Tackle Unconscious Bias

The hiring process is just one of many ways employers can combat racial discrimination. Leaders are the ones who establish the company culture whether it’s intentional or not. Taking meaningful action against racism means leaders need to step up and actively support BIPOC. Talking about diversity and inclusion efforts means little when there’s no action taken.

Many employers unknowingly perpetuate racism in their own workplace because they fail to acknowledge the flaws of their own internal company culture. Tackling unconscious bias with the help of a third party, accepting feedback from BIPOC colleagues and taking an honest look at ones culture can help minimize the constraints that prevent the culture from thriving.

The Harvard Business School wrote an article on how minority job applicants are deleting references to their race on their resume in hopes of boosting their chances at getting a job. The article explained how “Asian applicants often change their foreign-sounding names to something more American-sounding” as well as Americanizing their interests by using common white western culture activities such as snowboarding or hiking. Furthermore, African Americans tone down their involvement in black organizations by removing the word “black” from a professional society or scholarship.

Katherine DeCelles, Associate Professor at Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, shared “a bias against minorities runs rampant through the resume screening process at companies throughout the United States.” Applicants should not have to sacrifice their achievements, cultural connection or human capital for fear of not being hired.

Companies now have an opportunity to recognize their unconscious bias and prioritize creating a more diversified workplace. One way of doing this is adding blind hiring into the recruitment process. Madison Campbell, CEO of Leda Health Company, said “name-blind applications will increase the focus on qualifications and merit rather than the biases that even the best allies can have.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I’m a Leadership Coach & Workplace Culture Consultant at Heidi Lynne Consulting helping individuals and organizations gain the confidence to become better leaders for themselves and their teams. As a consultant, I deliver and implement strategies to develop current talent and create impactful and engaging employee experiences. Companies hire me to to speak, coach, consult and train their teams and organizations of all sizes. I’ve gained a breadth of knowledge working internationally in Europe, America and Asia. I use my global expertise to provide virtual and in-person consulting and leadership coaching to the students at Babson College, Ivy League students and my global network. I’m a black belt in Six Sigma, former Society of Human Resources (SHRM) President and domestic violence mentor. Learn more at http://www.heidilynneco.com or get in touch at Heidi@heidilynneco.com.

Source: 4 Ways You Can Tackle Racial Discrimination In Your Workplace

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Example of a possible example of unconscious racial discrimination in the workplace. For more info on unconscious bias training: https://www.emtrain.com/products/prog… This video portrays some employees of color coming together to protest and support the “Black Lives Matters” movement in their workplace. However, a co-worker disagrees and erases their writing and claims that “All Lives Matter”. This obviously angers the other employees and makes them feel attacked by their coworkers.
This is an example of racial discrimination in the workplace and leads to feelings of isolation in the work environment where teamwork and cooperation are essential to the success of the company. To see more examples of racial discrimination in the workplace and how to handle them in your work environment, go to http://www.emtrain.com
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How to Keep Your Team Energized During the Holidays

This year, the holidays are different from any other that we have had in the past. Many families have been quarantined together all year long, struggling to balance the lines between work and home. Being on calls, virtual meetings, and attending online conferences, while feeding small children and pets is exhausting. Work feels like it is never-ending, and many are struggling with burn out. We all are due for a much-needed time off — to properly be strengthened as individuals, and as a team.

As 2020 ends and 2021 feels uncertain (work circumstances, vaccines, etc.), here are a few ways you can help your teams’ recharge and enter 2021 feeling refreshed and ready to handle any new (or old) challenge that comes.

Incentivizing health and wellness during the holiday season 

Balance is the name of the game. Think through the different policies and practices that have been in place this year and evaluate whether those have been working. 2020 has been the year of transition to remote working, and virtual collaboration. Workplace stress along with family/personal responsibilities can cause burn out and fatigue that affects productivity and effectiveness in all areas of life.

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As a leader, be willing to be generous and flexible. Take a closer look at your rules and norms and figure out the areas where flexibility is available. See if you can build in additional days off, such as mandatory mental health days. Or for the holidays, ask, can the team spare mandatory blackout periods i.e. no work emails after 5 pm during the months of November and December. 

Send out intentional and thoughtful notes to your employees for the end of the year. Acknowledge the struggles and imperfections with the transition and any new policies. Go the distance with a small, handwritten note dropped in the mailbox to your team mates. This will make people feel special and remind them that you are thinking of them.  

Provide gifts that encourage relaxation and recharge. For example, gift cards are a great way to deliver options for local massages, nail salons, float tanks. And if these shops are still not open due to COVID restrictions, your team members will have something to look forward to in the future, all the while supporting a local, small business.

In the upcoming months make connection a priority, and aim to conduct a few group activities, such as virtually led meditation workshops or virtual exercise classes. Teams could also hire a therapist and conduct a workshop to discuss tactics to monitor stress and wellness, especially with increased responsibilities around the holidays.

Make wellness a priority for your teams and prepare your people through the message that their well-being is important, and their ability to recharge in the next few months is a top priority. Employers that can do this successfully will reap the benefits of increased commitment and productivity as the new year comes around.

Protecting time and energy 

Research has shown that the priorities of younger women and men have changed, as they seek more opportunities for a flexible workplace. In 2021, it’s more likely that we can expect a hybrid solution between in-office and virtual working. The best way to adopt these new norms, and prepare teams is to open the lines of communication and reduce the stigma of having conversations around what a flexible work-life looks like. By hearing the concerns of people and teams, managers can problem-solve on challenges and focus on what is working for the future.

Now that most of the year has passed, take time to ask your employees if they have the proper tools for their home office. Engage, and see how as a company you can support their work environments through stipends for speedy internet, office supplies (paper, pens), and proper furniture (i.e. lumber supported chairs). Offer reimbursements or deals on chairs and tables that could be used in the home.

Related: 4 Tips to Fight Employee Disengagement During the Holidays

These upcoming months are also a perfect time for individuals and families to find ways to give back to the community and volunteer. Ask if your teams are interested in volunteering for the holidays and help source virtual or in-person events they can attend. Volunteering has been shown to increase a sense of purpose and fulfillment. You could also volunteer together as a team, to continue to build outside work relationships and connection. For example, our team had recently come together and wrote encouraging messages to seniors online. We were able to give back, while catching up with people on our lives outside of work.

And lastly, take this opportunity to reflect with your teams. Evaluate the office tools that have worked or ones that would be nice to have. This could be anything from virtual conferencing tools to online collaboration services. In addition, evaluate team communication and whether there needs to be changes or if things are working smoothly. Ask how people believe this last year went, and what they expect to happen in 2021. Encourage and support their views and show grace when at all possible. 2020 has been difficult, and this holiday is a great time to take time to breathe and recharge together.

By: Brenda Pak Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

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