Updated: November 04, 2022

Allyship in the Workplace: Ultimate Guide

You found our ultimate guide on allyship in the workplace.

Allyship in the workplace refers to recognizing one’s privilege and using it to help and include employees at a disadvantage. Examples include sponsor allies, mentor allies, and cultural allies. Every employee has the right to feel safe, supported, and appreciated on the job, regardless of appearance, beliefs, or gender identity. The purpose of allyship is to create an inclusive workplace culture.

Allyship in the workplace can also offer the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and can be part of your diversity and inclusion activities.

This article contains:

  • definition of allyship in the workplace
  • ways to demonstrate allyship in the workplace
  • allyship in the workplace scenarios
  • the importance of allyship in the workplace
  • allyship in the workplace activities
  • allyship in the workplace training

Here we go!

Definition of allyship in the workplace

Allyship in the workplace refers to a situation where an individual actively supports and aims to enhance the culture of inclusiveness by purposeful, constructive, and conscientious activities that benefit their colleagues.

Allyship is a way of life in which employees from dominant groups work to understand the experiences of those from disadvantaged groups by forming connections with them and cultivating empathy for their plight. To be an ally is to utilize one’s position of power to amplify the concerns of traditionally silenced or underrepresented workers and to bring their struggles to the forefront of a broader conversation. An empowering work environment is one in which all employees feel valued and heard by management.

By connecting with individuals who are different from you, you can get insight into their experiences and strive to improve their conditions. Allyship describes reaching out, helping, and empowering. For example, allyship could be a white manager who helps his black female coworker achieve a promotion or an employee who pushes for product improvements that empower disabled consumers for inclusion in the product roadmap.

The concept of “ally” might imply being on the same side as an individual or perhaps just willing to aid them. However, Allyship is not only a vehicle to help promote or support persons of color who are fully capable of realizing their ambitions without the approval and aid of their white colleagues. Rather, the concept is a decided action that goes beyond a common interest.

Allyship is about bringing together individuals with common goals and the means to achieve them. Allyship is not a part-time endeavor. The concept has to become a regular part of workplace routines. This never-ending process requires workers to approach and engage with individuals of varying backgrounds and talents to foster responsibility, trust, and consistency.

Employees interested in allyship cannot define or identify themselves as allies. The colleagues that need allyship need to make the acknowledgment. How individuals serve as allies might also vary. The approach could be public advocacy, listening without becoming defensive or doubting the person’s experiences, and providing possibilities for development.

The importance of allyship in the workplace

According to LeanIn, although “the vast majority of white workers see themselves as allies,” fewer than half of Black women and more than half of Latinas believe they have strong allies in the workplace.

According to a Deloitte study published in 2019 dubbed “The Bias Barrier,” allies may be the “missing link” in the effort to create more welcoming workplaces. Workers at companies that foster a sense of community and support among their staff members are happier and more committed to their jobs. As a result, these businesses have lower rates of turnover and higher reports of employee motivation to increase productivity. Additionally, these employees are 75 percent less likely to call in sick and 167 percent more inclined to promote their companies to others.

One of the most critical advantages of allyship and an inclusive society is improving individuals’ psychological security. According to Deloitte’s findings, “productive friction,” defined as “the capacity to bring about conflict and learn from disagreement,” is more likely to occur with teams when employees feel psychologically secure bringing their opinions to the table.

For many purposes, having reliable allies is crucial. Recognizing one’s privilege and utilizing it to impact inclusion and to call out or criticize conduct that perpetuates prejudice and systemic oppression based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or ability is an essential part of this concept.

Allies are crucial to dismantle oppressive structures and get individuals in majority-white cultures to recognize and accept that structural inequality is a fact. An ally is an individual who recognizes they must utilize their resources to create positive change. Although one ally’s efforts are often insignificant in the general sense, a critical mass of allies consciously collaborating with activists and marginalized communities can generate the necessary and collective momentum to bring about the change those communities desperately need.

Ways to demonstrate allyship in the workplace

True allies advocate for the changes they wish to see and actively spearhead those transformations. Performative allies are all talk only. In most cases, these individuals’ “support” of a minority group is only there when it suits them and may be counterproductive. Slacktivism is easy. Posting a Blackout Tuesday #BLM photo on Instagram is free and mostly inconsequential. Having some financial stake in the outcome is the surest method to prove your loyalty.

Having a stake might mean standing up for another colleague, advocating for an unpopular cause, or disagreeing with a superior. Allyship could also mean putting your career or reputation on the line to defend your values.

It is necessary to understand what allyship looks like in the workplace. Sponsor allies, mentor allies, cultural allies, and structural allies are the four categories of allies. Below are allyship in the workplace scenarios.

1. Sponsor Allies

The sponsor ally’s job is to publicly back the efforts of their coworkers who belong to underrepresented groups. In this kind of alliance, one employee works to boost the status of another inside the organization. For example, this allyship could be praising a colleague in front of a group of high-level stakeholders, giving them a shout-out in the business newsletter, or suggesting the individual for greater responsibilities and training.

2. Mentor Allies

A mentor ally works closely with a coworker, usually an individual from a different group than themselves, to provide them with guidance and encouragement. A mentor ally provides objective feedback, a sounding board for finding solutions to issues, and insights into potential career growth paths. A mentor ally can also be a sponsor ally. As a mentor ally, you may assist a coworker prepare for a presentation or high-stakes interaction by role-playing tough scenarios and providing feedback for improvement.

Here is a list of mentor program ideas.

3. Cultural Allies

Exclusionary language and actions may be so pervasive that even well-intentioned people miss them, as society’s diversity and equality problems persist. A cultural ally actively seeks out chances to train others on how to be more inclusive, with the ultimate goal of building a culture of inclusiveness across the organization and inspiring others to stand up and become allies themselves.

Cultural allies may coach other employees into becoming LGBT+ allies by correcting the use of the wrong pronouns while referring to a transgender coworker. In addition, such workers may explain the impact of using correct pronouns and how specific actions may affect their colleague’s well-being.

Check out this list of culture-building activities.

4. Structural Allies

It is not always enough to teach employees about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In some cases, the organization’s structure may require modification. A structural ally is a member of an organization’s leadership who actively works to alter the company’s procedures and culture. To achieve this aim, businesses may do a pay equity analysis, a review of their recruiting and performance management policies for bias, and an equity grievance mechanism for reporting discriminatory or unlawful activities.

Allyship in the workplace activities

Certain qualities make an employee a valuable ally at work.

There are a few essentials to remember to be a successful ally at work. The following are activities that help demonstrate an excellent workplace ally.

5. Become an Advocate

A good ally recognizes their own power and utilizes it to amplify the voices of others who lack it. This approach may take different forms in the workplace, such as advocating for a coworker to take on an important project or new role. For instance, a manager may support their worker’s professional development by providing experience and training opportunities and by representing their interests to higher-ups in the organization.

6. Address Bias and Injustice

Allies take concrete steps toward improving the workplace and the world. If there is a case of microaggression or a coworker uses improper pronouns to refer to another coworker, the ally will speak up to address the injustice and make sure that such conduct does not persist in the workplace, even if unintentional. This step might take the shape of casual discussions with coworkers or more sustained opposition to organizational policies or leadership efforts. Allies in the workplace are willing to speak out even if doing so makes them uncomfortable or threatens the status quo.

7. Give Proper Acknowledgement

Employees who fail to receive proper recognition at work are two times more likely to leave their jobs within a year. This activity can be as simple as taking the time to recognize and appreciate your staff regularly publicly. A simple “that was a terrific idea” or “thank you” at a team meeting or for a job well done may go a long way. You should recognize and applaud your staff for a job well done, and share that information with the rest of the team and upper management. As a bonus, this step may serve as a gentle reminder to upper management to pay attention to the input and ideas of their staff.

8. Share the Spotlight

As an ally, you should be ready to share credits. It is important to give every employee a voice in meetings and to encourage specialists to contribute their knowledge and ideas frequently. If you are asked for specifics, you should defer to a team member who has done the legwork on the project. This action allows the employee to shine in front of higher-ups.

For example, if you are a person of color who is regularly asked to speak at events, you may want to recommend some of your fellow qualified minority specialists as potential speakers. This step is a chance to make a positive impression on a colleague, and it may open the floor for colleagues from different walks of life to share what they have learned. You may do the same for a minority colleague or peer by nominating them for an award.

9. Become Knowledgeable

An important trait of good allies is the willingness to expand their horizons and educate themselves about the lives of others who are different. To better understand what it is like to be a member of a marginalized group and how you, as an ally, might assist, it may be helpful to get some insight into that group’s experience. One easy way to demonstrate your support for non-binary workers and contribute to the normalization of gender identification in the workplace is to include your pronouns in your email signature.

10. Pay Attention

Listening attentively is a skill that may make or break a friendship, and it is one that every team member can learn. This process has two parts. It would be best if you were the worker willing to believe others, validate their sentiments, and know when to stay quiet and allow someone else to have the floor. It would be best to remember that you need to talk with the individuals you wish to assist, not for them, and that allies are a crucial component of any debate. You should determine when speaking out would be beneficial and when it would be more effective to magnify the voices of others around you.

11. Be Empathetic

One way to define empathy is as the emotional response one has toward another individual’s distress, regardless of whether or not you can relate to their situation. You can be a helpful ally even if you are not completely knowledgeable. If you fail to be a helpful coworker and make a mistake, admit it, apologize honestly, learn from the experience, and move on. Learning is a continuous process. Being humble, showing vulnerability, and demonstrating empathy at the workplace are all crucial because they make you more approachable and trustworthy.

Here are ways to show empathy at work.

12. Emphasize Education

You may be sick of hearing it, but knowledge is power in this struggle. Employees often really lack awareness of their privileged experiences and the steps they might take to alter them. Workers unfamiliar with the mechanisms of privilege, microaggressions, cultural appropriation, and systematic racism have a harder time listening. Allyship in the workplace training can go a long way in educating your colleagues.

13. Promote Accountability

A lack of impact renders even the best intentions useless as performative allyship. The best allies use the criticism they get as an opportunity to grow and enhance their work, even if it is painful to hear. When the job of being an ally becomes irritating or stressful, organizations may assist individuals in recognizing their privilege, its manifestations in daily life, and the need to refrain from falling back on that advantage.

14. Be Exemplary

Since allies frequently hail from privileged backgrounds, they are in a position to amplify the voices of those they support by establishing norms for using inclusive language. This step, in turn fosters an environment where individuals feel comfortable directly confronting those who uphold oppressive values and dispelling false beliefs. And they may help get the word out about the importance of a broad set of viewpoints in the workplace, especially among the upper echelons of management.

15. Offer Support

When defining allyship, the focus is frequently on the aspirant ally rather than the marginalized communities. The nature of support is distinct from other forms of advocacy since it occurs behind the scenes. This support may include emphasizing the work members of disadvantaged groups are already doing, speaking less and listening more, honoring the spaces that minority groups have carved out for themselves, and avoiding becoming the focus of attention.

16. Take Action

In the end, action is necessary for responsible and successful allyship. You should inspire would-be allies to learn from and work in tandem with underrepresented communities to determine priorities and create a support system for mutual aspirations. The political nature of action means that supporters of social justice causes must not be afraid to show their support for these causes by voting, writing to their representatives, starting petitions, and participating in demonstrations.

Conclusion

Having an ally is a lifelong business. Building a more equitable society and workforce takes time and effort. The real job of being an ally at work lies in your own hands, but these steps will get you started. While it is vital to keep the larger picture in mind, tomorrow, concentrate on what you can do to make your workplace a better, more equitable place for colleagues who works there.

Next, check out our article on inclusion moment ideas and this list of DEI benefits in the workplace.

FAQ: Allyship in the Workplace

Here are frequently asked questions about allyship in the workplace.

What is allyship in the workplace?

Allyship in the workplace refers to a situation where an individual actively supports and aims to enhance the culture of inclusiveness by purposeful, constructive, and conscientious activities that benefit their colleagues.

How can you encourage allyship in the workplace as an employer?

You can encourage allyship in the workplace by encouraging education, paying attention, and giving proper acknowledgment. You can also preach personal responsibility among employees.

How can you be a better ally at work?

You can be a great ally by focusing on support, being empathetic, and sharing the spotlight. You can also become an advocate at your workplace.

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Author:

Content Expert at teambuilding.com.
Grace is the Director of People & Culture at TeamBuilding. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.

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