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  • Writer's pictureNICOLETTE STENGER

Final Installment, Empowering Allies: Strategies for Creating Psychologically Safe Workplaces

In this final installment, we'll explore how education, self-awareness and self-compassion, and leadership action can be pivotal in creating trauma-informed workplaces.

Understanding the realities of oppressive systems is a crucial step for allies and leaders alike. It's our responsibility to proactively seek knowledge, engage in self-reflection, and dismantle the barriers that perpetuate disparities. Integrating self-compassion into our approach involves recognizing that we aren't born knowing everything and that it's okay to not have all the answers immediately. However, it's essential that we take responsibility for learning what we don't know and putting that knowledge into action. By embracing this mindset, we create space for growth and meaningful change. Additionally, it's equally important to recognize the limitations and unintended consequences of diversity initiatives within organizations. This blend of education, self-awareness, and self-compassion forms the foundation for effective allyship and leadership in fostering inclusive workplaces.

Concrete Steps for Allies and Leaders

  • Self-compassion: Embrace the dialectical opposition between pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone to do better and giving ourselves grace for still needing to learn what we don’t know. Dr. Kristin Neff is an expert in cultivating self-compassion and has many resources available to support that endeavor. 

  • Self-Education and Reflection: Start by reading literature that explores the intersectionality of race and gender. Engage in workshops and foster self-awareness to become informed and empathetic leaders.

  • Challenge Systemic Biases: Identify and challenge biases within the organization. Scrutinize policies and decision-making processes to ensure equity and non-discrimination.

  • Transparent Communication: Foster transparent communication around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Articulate a commitment to creating psychologically safe workplaces for women of color.

  • Intersectional Leadership: Embrace intersectionality in decision-making processes and create targeted initiatives to address specific disparities faced by women of color.

Organizational Transformation and Accountability

  • Implement Trauma-Informed Practices: Integrate trauma-informed practices into organizational culture, prioritizing transparency, psychological safety, and collaboration.

  • Consistent Anti-Racist Training: Regularly conduct anti-racist training for all employees. Setting the foundation by incorporating it into the onboarding process can increase the ongoing engagement of those already interested in these initiatives. Offer ongoing, thorough experiential training that is voluntary that leaders participate in to model the importance and value of the work done.

  • Address Defensiveness Head-On: Actively address defensiveness and encourage a culture where feedback is valued.

  • Servant Leadership Principles: Embrace servant leadership, prioritizing the needs of team members and removing obstacles hindering the success of women of color.

The Intrinsic Value of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

It's crucial to view Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives not merely as tools for meeting business goals, but as fundamental values rooted in fairness, integrity, and justice. When companies frame DE&I as a means to an end, it can inadvertently diminish the intrinsic value of every individual within the organization. Human beings are not commodities; they are valued members of a community deserving of respect, dignity, and equitable treatment.

There is much work to be done, and it begins with each of us. Consider how you can incorporate these principles into your own leadership practices and organizational culture. Start by setting specific goals and creating a plan of action. However, before engaging your team in open dialogue, it's imperative to create a foundation of psychological safety. This means ensuring that team members feel safe to express their thoughts, concerns, and experiences without fear of judgment or reprisal. Take the time to build trust and establish a supportive environment where everyone's voice is valued and respected.

Once psychological safety is established, encourage your team to share their perspectives and experiences openly. Listen actively, with empathy and an open mind, and be prepared to address any issues or concerns that arise.

Leaders hold the power to effect transformative change within organizations. By taking concrete actions and fostering self-awareness, we contribute to the creation of trauma-informed, anti-racist, and inclusive workplaces.

Resources and Recommended Reading for White Leaders:

  • Onyeador, I. N., Hudson, S. T. J., & Lewis, N. A. (2021). Moving Beyond Implicit Bias Training: Policy Insights for Increasing Organizational Diversity. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences8(1), 19-26.

  • Mixed Signals: The Unintended Effects of Diversity Initiatives, Tessa L. Dover, Cheryl R. Kaiser, Brenda Major, First published: 04 October 2019

  • Mandatory vs Voluntary #DEI Training: A Fresh Science-Based Perspective by Naveen Mehta

  • So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo

  • This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell

  • Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad


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