Board Coverting News, August 31, 2020

Race In The Workplace (CONT’D FROM PAGE 22)


productivity, or evaluation. And then we’ll talk about the obstacles and some ideas to fix that.’” If a structured conversation is a good idea, or even a necessity, it’s also true that careful planning is required to pull it off. One size does not fit all. “Your business might benefit from a meeting to discuss race relations,” says Mc- Donald. “But you have to know your workforce. Are peo- ple upset? Are they talking about racial matters to such an extent that you feel a meeting might be cathartic? Then I think having an open discussion and letting people be heard might be worthwhile. But you need someone to lead it who will require respect on the part of attendees. And bear in mind that in some cases a meeting might lead to more tension and make matters worse.” Break The Ice As the above comments suggest, it’s possible for a staff meeting to backfire. It’s for that very reason that many businesses will be fearful of taking the plunge. “Managers of any color may be uncomfortable talking about work- place race relations,” says Kaye. “And they may fear that employees who are also uncomfortable with the topic will wind up offending one another.” Campt says management can help overcome the dis- comfort surrounding discussions about race—as well as set the right tone—by leading with a degree of vulnera- bility. “By owning up to bias and establishing a determina- tion to work on it, the manager makes it much harder for people to say they are immune from it and much easier for everyone to discuss it.” He suggests leading with some words like these: “Bias is something we are all subject to. I am not a per- fect person either. I am a human being subject to thoughts that are sometimes problematic.” Still got cold feet? Sometimes obtaining professional help is wise. “Skill at this level of communication is not widespread,” says Campt. “A good diversity and inclusion professional can often provide conversational tools to help a culture navigate the topic. There is value in engag- ing people who know how to be facilitators around these issues, and who are not doing it for the first time.” When an organization does undergo this shift in think- ing, people can discuss workplace bias in a more enlight- ened way. “We can start to look at how pervasive bias against women and people of color--not just in our com- pany, but in our society—might be affecting our business decisions,” says Campt. “And we can look in a different light at our recruitment practices, vendor choices, and hir- ing and promotion decisions.” Retool Business Systems The forward-looking company will take steps to re-engi- neer any policies and practices riddled with hidden biases. “The most important thing for every business is to estab- lish anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies,” says


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August 31, 2020

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