Allyship in the Workplace: Ultimate Guide

By: | Updated: September 01, 2023

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 involves individuals, often those in positions of privilege or power, actively supporting and advocating for marginalized or underrepresented colleagues. This belief goes beyond tolerance and involves taking concrete actions to create a more inclusive and diverse work environment. An ally is a colleague who recognizes the systemic challenges faced by certain groups and commits to using their privilege to address these issues.

Effective allyship in the workplace starts with active listening and empathy. Allies should strive to understand the unique experiences and challenges faced by marginalized colleagues, creating a safe space for open conversations. Beyond awareness, allyship involves taking active steps to combat bias, discrimination, and inequities. This process may include advocating for fair hiring practices, promoting diversity in leadership roles, and confronting microaggressions or biased behavior.

Moreover, allyship is an ongoing commitment. This practice requires continuous education and self-reflection to understand individual biases and privileges better. Allies should speak up in support of marginalized colleagues and also amplify their voices and experiences. By encouraging a culture of allyship in the workplace, organizations can foster greater diversity and inclusion. Ultimately, this environment creates a more productive and harmonious work environment where the whole team can thrive.

The importance of allyship in the workplace

Allyship is vital in the workplace because it helps create a more inclusive environment. When colleagues from diverse backgrounds feel supported and valued, they are more likely to contribute their unique perspectives. These insights can lead to increased creativity and better problem-solving within teams. This diversity of thought is a significant driver of success for businesses.

Allyship also helps address issues like discrimination and bias. Allies actively challenge stereotypes and discriminatory practices, which can lead to fairer hiring and promotion processes. This environment, in turn, reduces imbalances in career opportunities and advancement. By holding individuals and organizations accountable for their actions and biases, allyship fosters a culture of awareness and fairness.

Another crucial aspect of allyship is that it enhances employee well-being and engagement. Knowing colleagues and leaders support all groups creates a sense of belonging and psychological safety. This feeling leads to increased job satisfaction, productivity, and overall morale. In workplaces where allyship is a priority, employees are more likely to stay committed to the organization, resulting in lower turnover rates and improved retention.

In summary, allyship is essential in the workplace because it promotes inclusion, combats bias, and enhances employee well-being, ultimately benefiting both individuals and organizations.

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.

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3. 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.

4. Intersectional Allies

Intersectional allies support and stand up for those who face discrimination because they belong to more than one group that is often treated unfairly. These groups might include race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or age. Intersectional allies understand that all these aspects of identity impact an individual’s life experiences, not just one. In short, these allies support folks who face multiple kinds of unfair treatment, making the workplace more inclusive and just.

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.

1. Amplify Voices

Amplifying voices means ensuring that the whole team recognizes the thoughts and achievements of those who often get ignored or silenced. This process is about allies using their influence to highlight colleague’s ideas and work. In the workplace, this support might involve speaking up for underrepresented colleagues, sharing their accomplishments, or giving them opportunities to lead. Amplifying voices is an important way to make the workplace more inclusive and diverse.

2. Use Inclusive Language

Using inclusive language is about choosing words that show respect for all differences. For instance, avoid words or phrases that could hurt or exclude any group. This thought process includes using gender-neutral language, not making assumptions about backgrounds, and using the right pronouns. Inclusive language helps create a welcoming workplace where all employees feel respected.

3. Support Inclusive Policies

Supporting inclusive policies means championing rules that treat all workers fairly, no matter where they come from or who they are. These policies might include ensuring employees are paid the same amount for the same job or providing help for employees with disabilities. Allies should talk to bosses and HR to make sure these rules are fair and help fix any unfairness. This support helps create a workplace where all individuals have the same chances and feel valued, regardless of their differences.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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.


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.

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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.

Author avatar


People & Culture Director at
Grace is the Director of People & Culture at 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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