October 6, 2020

123: Addressing Race and Bias in the Workplace with Aaron Samuels

Race, identity, bias…these are not easy topics for many Americans (or humans). For too long, we’ve allowed the status quo, which perpetuates inequity, to go unquestioned within our organizations – even when our hearts are in the right place. I, along with many other Americans, have only recently awakened to how racism undergirds our society and therefore has impacted us without our knowledge. It is time for managers to do their part to create diverse, equitable, and inclusive teams and organizations in which all people can truly thrive.

In this episode, I speak with Aaron Samuels, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Blavity Inc., a digital community for Black Millennials that reaches over 30 million people per month across five digital properties including Blavity News, Travel Noire, AfroTech, Shadow And Act, and 21Ninety.

Aaron and I talk about race and being black inside of predominantly white spaces and predominantly spaces for people of color. We talk about how to start the work of self reflection and owning your role in perpetuating bias, even when it’s not intended. And we talk about what managers can do to create a more equitable culture.

Members of The Modern Manager community get a guide to talking about diversity, equity and inclusion with your team. To learn more about membership and to join, go to www.themodernmanager.com/join

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Read the related blog article: 5 Steps To Make Your Work Culture More Inclusive And Equitable

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Key Takeaways

  • Managers need to create a culture of dialogue in which assumptions can be challenged.
  • A healthy culture of dialogue occurs when employees can safely raise concerns about problematic things that happen in the workplace and then have those issues addressed without suffering any social repercussions.
  • Education about the history of oppression in the US and how it affects present realities and various identities is critical, but education alone will not create change.
  • Managers need to more frequently question and try to bring awareness to their inner prejudices and biases – we all have them.
  • Managers should publicly acknowledge their mistakes. By admitting what you said or did, and recognizing why it was wrong, you send the message to your employees that it is safe for them to make mistakes and own up to them as well.
  • Create a culture that encourages constructive dissent by making sure that there’s always somebody in every meeting naming the opposite side of an argument.
  • To help identify where biases or blind spots are influencing decisions, stage a pre-mortem where you assume that your objective has failed and work backwards to determine what went wrong and why.
  • When making group decisions, take into account how proposed changes will affect people at all organizational levels, including junior employees. Considering everyone’s feelings before moving forward on a decision allows for alternative voices and viewpoints to be expressed and acknowledged.
  • Every conversation is an opportunity for you to earn the trust of somebody on your team.

KEEP UP WITH AARON

mamie@mamieks.com

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