by Gregory Harris
In the first article I talked about understanding and preparing for the changes that you may see in your business. That is essential to be prepared for how the marketplace may affect the direction your company is going and the opportunities that typically arise with change. It is good business to anticipate changes and have a plan that allows you to benefit from what the consequences (good or bad) are for your organization.
Many of us were surprised at the results of the election. It has slightly altered how many of us proceed (definitely slowed me down) and has given us more concern as we look for what is known and unknown in the future. Trump winning the 2016 Presidential election was not the change we were all anticipating when I wrote part 1 of this series.
Make sure you stay attuned to his revised commitments and changes versus the campaign threats. Some things may change in importance and some approaches may be altered as his administration and advisers formalize and prioritize actions.
You must consider what evolves and its effect on your market and employer.
We all expect that we will see an increase in micro-aggressions and sometimes outright racist behavior. In fact, we have seen in the news and on the Internet, negative and derogatory vocalizations towards brown and black people in schools and public places. We expected some negative comments based on the rhetoric from the campaign, however short term, there have been more emboldened individual reactions after the Trump win.
The good news is we’ve also seen an outpouring from American companies and their management (in very public ways) on the importance of diversity and working together. The CEO of AT&T has been very upfront in describing how he feels about maintaining efforts towards diversity, inclusion and support of Black Lives Matter. The CEO of Grub Hub was very outspoken on his post-election feelings towards people who supported the president elect and his commitment to a culture of inclusiveness in his organization (Bloomberg Nov 11). We also have seen many Fortune 500 companies stand up and speak to their employees in ways that indicated that they will continue to support the efforts to hire minorities LGBT women, etc. into their work environment and to help promote and guarantee their success (i.e., Microsoft announces diversity as a key factor in executive bonuses).
These announcements from the corporate leaders in the U.S. are very positive. We recognize that part of it is driven by the fact that much of their growth and success will be in appealing to the minority consumer and global marketplace. Minority participation in the workforce is also key if they want to have the best talent.
Likewise, their global image must have diversity efforts included as all other countries (buyers of their goods and services) are watching. Whether it’s selling phones in South America or providing accounting services to the Middle East and Europe, people are watching.
The Fortune 500 companies recognize that they cannot afford to stumble in their diversity efforts and that racially diverse organization outperform non diverse ones by 35% (Forbes 2015). That’s the good news. The bad news is that many of us don’t work for Fortune 500 companies. Therefore, we must recognize that there are things we must do to be prepared personally and to be able to survive and thrive in this new environment.
Let me suggest three things that will make a difference for you:
1.Make sure that you understand who the major players and decision-makers are in your organization upstream downstream and parallel to you. Org charts may not tell it all, so identify who really makes things happen. Understand where you think these major players are in their attitudes towards diversity and minorities and working together. I’m not asking you to stereotype but I am asking you to do thoughtful consideration of who those players are as they can be key as you watch changes in the business, changes in policies, changes in practices, that may affect you and others long and short term.
2. With that analysis done look at who can be on your personal team. People who you can work with and who you can include as part of your virtual team of supporters and like-minded pursuers of doing the right thing – in policy and practice. These people become an informal network for you to make sure that the organization is moving in the right direction and is not impacted by the negative rhetoric of the outside environment. For both 1& 2 you must practice ‘Being There’ (participation in after work gatherings, lunches, informal get-togethers) to make sure you are around and present socially to hear the conversations and participate in the informal collaboration that does go on.
3. Be prepared to handle micro-aggressions and some subtle racism that you may see. If you see implicit bias (unconsciously ingrained behaviors) – educate people who may not recognize or understand what they are doing wrong. If you see repeated micro-aggressions you should clarify for the individual(s) involved on why it is offensive and help people understand what is respectful of individuals and culture in any work environment, and the commensurate behavior that is expected from all. If you have an overt racist behavior, bigotry, discrimination, abuse, etc. you must deal with it as we always should – documenting and addressing with HR/management without hesitation.
In the last two weeks I have had multiple occurrences of people talking with me about concerns with the current environment and their relationship with management. One person was concerned with what they have seen as escalating negative attitudes towards her role and career. The current hired in expert (2 years in the job) had always been difficult but has become more antagonistic and negative towards her recently. Although she has a record of being a star performer, she has been treated with some distance and disdain by this new manager.
A black female in a very traditional white, middle-aged business structure (Commercial Financial Services) she has been with the company for almost 2 decades and has always met her management and performance goals. However, he has recently suggested that she would not be around for the long term.
We talked about her strategy for improving the relationship. First, we considered his background and the nature of his being. We recognize that he was a successful analytical social style who probably had never directly managed a woman or minority in the past. Additionally, he was a very conservative, Midwesterner with a stay at home wife and used to having his way. He did not seem to approve of her single mom status and didn’t really connect with any of the female employees or support staff. She and he had never had an informal or social interchange. She didn’t like or trust him.
I suggested that she approach him with a quid pro quo discussion. That discussion would revolve around three things. First, she recognizes his discomfort with her and understood, but her perceived differences/disadvantages actually made her a more determined and creative manager that resulted in her being successful for the organization. That he could count on. In addition, if she could spend more time with him learning big deal tactics and financing options, he could forecast more business or over-attain next year’s goals. Lastly, she would single-handedly approach the minority market to add to the organization’s numbers and meet new diverse customer targets (something she wanted to do and upper management has wanted to see happen).
The discussion went well and now she is more optimistic as to her long-term success and ability to grow. They will have their first lunch meeting and joint customer visit soon. It was all quid pro quo (his time and mentoring her additional business). In fact the result is she is slowly converting him (at least in the business environment) and opening his eyes to the possibilities of working with women and minorities.
The second conversation was with a lady who had been approached by another manager who recognized her for getting things done, but did so by stereo typing her as a neck twirling, hand on the hip aggressive black female, none of which was true. She was shocked when it happened, but after our conversation, decided that if it happens again, she would very quickly address the fact that her success is based on making the right decisions and doing the right thing as any educated and prepared business person would do, period. I applauded her approach and strategy. She is more confident on what to do next. That’s how you handle micro-aggressions and the ignorant.
So in summary:
Speak up and provide simple responses and solutions that open eyes when the opportunities for education and conversion on Bias and Micro-aggressions occur.
Know and connect with the decision making structure and build your personal virtual team for success with planning and ‘Being There’.
Understand the political environment’s effect on opportunities for the future for you, your market and business so you can make the right decisions and plan for your success.
We will continue to see change. We must plan and deal with change in ways that prepare us for the future. The post Trump election environment is just another opportunity for working with change for mutual success. We must always find ways to make the best of change when it happens.
About the Author
An author, a public speaker, and businessman, Gregory pens his new book Overcoming Bias and Racism in Your Workspace. Using his experiences with racism as a child raised in a military family in the poor coal and steel region/area /country of eastern Ohio, as well as his professional experiences at IBM and Wang Computers, Gregory shares tips and tools to effectively deal with the challenges of racism and bias head on.
A proud graduate of Morgan State University with over 20 years career experience as an executive, Gregory knows what it takes to survive and thrive in the world of business. A former Global Vice President Business Development and Marketing in the corporate realm, he continues to work as a consultant and coach encouraging success for all in the high tech arena.
With a passion for writing and reading, Gregory hopes to inspire and motivate others toward change. A youth sports coach in his spare time, Gregory always encourages others to be the best image of themselves and to stay true to one’s beliefs. Contact Gregory online at www.gregharrisauthors.com