We are living in a moment that’s demanding employers to change the way in which they position themselves — if they really believe in inclusion — while Black employees can really evaluate where they are and how they feel about their workplace.
Black employees and their workplace experiences vary greatly, and we should not hold onto this idea that all Black employees are dissatisfied with their company’s response to the continued discrimination in the workplace and how their needs — around mental and emotional health, equity in the workspace, diversity and inclusion, and opportunities to excel in their positions — are met on a global scale.
In my 20 years of experience advising and counseling clients on how to protect their mental well-being, I know people who feel they are already working for a company who has been addressing the needs of Black Lives Matter on a global scale. To understand each situation, we need to analyze company by company and look at what Black people in their respective industries are looking for.
We need to examine the timelines and proposals from companies that are trying to diminish racial tensions. Black employees can evaluate what responsibility they have in creating opportunities to feel respected and valued at work — and that may not be limited to working for others — while also analyzing whether they have been working for companies that do not have an inherently equitable landscape for Black employees to be included in decision-making and professional development.
The problem with having expectations around what companies must do for Black employees comes down to professional ethics. We might not want to talk about it, because there has been a shift in the cultural landscape of racial tensions — both inside and outside of work. But it is time we look at who is responsible for the emotional lifting that comes along with taking care of people, and the ideas around our own individual responsibilities to take care of ourselves. There can be an exchange of energy and ideas between employers and employees; but at the same time, this is an opportunity for employers to speak up about their lack of knowledge around what it means to have a diverse and equitable workplace.
The role of business in the racial justice and equity movement
Hear more from some of the organizations, large and small, that are taking authentic action and making long-term, systemic commitments to creating diverse, equitable workforces at Just Brands '21 — May 11-12.
Once these conversations start taking place, if Black employees feel their job needs to do more for them than it has, they could put together a proposal to constructively present ideas to change this — starting with a request to create an internal diversity and inclusion officer. They should also examine why their emotional needs have not been met, look at how much responsibility to put on the employer to do so, and be willing to create timelines for specific milestones.
There are companies that have been challenged in this area before and have come up with various ideas when the climate is hot. But it comes down to whether Black employees are willing to wait and give their needs time to be addressed at that company, or they feel another employer may be better equipped to do that for them.
Great firms owned, founded and managed by talented, Black professionals can be hired by companies who want to create a workplace that is equitable, as well as valuable, to the transference of economic power.
We are living in a moment that’s demanding employers to change the way in which they position themselves — if they really believe in inclusion — while Black employees can reconsider their positions. There is this view now that Black employees everywhere are likely mad at their employers; but it is important to remember that each experience is different, and not every Black employee is hurt or shocked by these illuminated affairs.
Ever since Black employees have been in workspaces, they have been known to navigate less-than-equitable environments by adapting to being not necessarily noticed or included. Black employees have always been resilient, but this is a great opportunity for them to really evaluate where they are and how they feel about their conditions.