Where to Start as a White Leader at Work This Week

If you’re White, a leader in your workplace and you want to start down the path of building a culture of anti-racism at work, here are five things to do, right now: 

Read this article, “U.S. Businesses Must Take Meaningful Action Against Racism” by Laura Morgan Roberts and Ella F. Washington. This just came out on Harvard Business Review, and it’s everything we’ve been hoping for over the past few days: clear guidance and spot on resources. 

You need to invite a conversation with your teams. Don’t ignore the pain, and intensity that people are feeling, but especially People of Color amidst the protests around the world. People are not okay this week, and it is a conversation that needs to happen at work. This is a massively important moment in our country’s history that holds the potential to do real work in beginning to address institutional racism that pervades every single one of our cities, communities and organizations. That’s important. It’s more important than the deadlines and reports that need to get done this week. 

Leaders need to create space for people to take care of themselves, to talk about what this moment means for them, what it feels like for them, what they’re worried about and hopeful about, and to find support with one another. You do not and should not come to the table with any answers or commentary. You need to open up the opportunity for the conversation, ask questions and listen. Show your support and care. 

Get clear on the definition of anti-racism and if you haven’t yet, start reading and educating yourself.

Here’s a video “Are you a racist? No isn’t a good enough answer”

A Book: “How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi

Additional Anti Racism Resources for White People

Invite your team to come together and put together a shared approach to continue the conversation and learning about anti-racism, along with taking stock of what practices on your team are inclusive and anti-racist and which practices are not. 

A couple of examples (there’s a whole lot more, but just to get you thinking): 

  • What do you do as a team to ensure everyone’s voice is heard? 
  • Do we explicitly talk about race and is it comfortable to talk about race? 
  • How are decisions made on our team and in our organization and does everyone have access to that knowledge? 
  • Is White Culture the norm on our team i.e. do we encourage and invite different traditions, art, food from cultures of Color? 

Check in individually with People of Color on your team. Get on the phone if you are working remotely. Again, you do not have to have answers and please don’t offer commentary. Just reach out to see how they’re doing, offer your support and care, and LISTEN. 

Say something like “With the global events and protests for racial justice right now, I wanted to check in and see how you’re doing.” Listen. Then offer your support. “What do you need right now? If you need time to just be, or time to take action or a place to talk and be heard, please let me know.” If it feels right to you, you can also express your commitment to anti-racism and your own development and learning. 

The most important thing right now is to be clear with yourself and your team that this moment matters, that racism in our world, community, workplace has to change, and that you as a leader are committed to having the conversations, doing the learning and starting down the long road of change. 

Jen Margolis

About Jen Margolis

My passion is helping people find and use their strengths to move toward their biggest vision. My career began as a community organizer with refugees and grew to designing and facilitating programs for international professionals including grassroots women leaders in Egypt. These experiences led me to management consulting focusing on strategic planning, leadership development, community and education based program development and executive coaching.