employee engagement

Allyship: Beyond What Company Offers, Form Healthy Relationships in the Workplace for Ultimate Job Satisfaction

Forming healthy relationships inside the workplace can improve an employee’s job satisfaction and engagement. In a SHRM article, a HR Knowledge Advisor goes beyond and defines healthy work relationships with the terminology, “allyship.” 

The article’s author emphasizes that true allyship is only grown in a culture of trust and accountability. Therefore, leaders must bear in mind that their members should find themselves situated in a more inclusive working environment — an environment where they are visible and heard. 

Most business resources associate allyship in the workplace as the whole movement to develop Diversity & Inclusion. The State of Allyship Report: The Key to Workplace Inclusion of Change Catalyst discusses statistics on the outcome of allyships in the workplace. Here are some of the numbers:

  • Employees who work at companies where allyship is encouraged are 1.4 times more likely to feel safe; 1.7 times more likely to experience job satisfaction, and twice more likely to feel a sense of belonging
  • 92% of respondents consider allies as beneficial to their careers
  • When employees have at least one ally, minority groups are more likely to feel safe in their workplace (black people, women, LGBTQIA plus, people with disabilities are more likely to feel safe in the workplace 1.5 times, 1.9 times, 2 times, and 2.1 times respectively).

Leaders maintain allyship in the workplace

Rachel Thomas, co-founder & CEO of LeanIn.Org and OptionB.Org, emphasizes the need to utilize culture change as an avenue to improve allyship across all levels within the organization. 

With the advancement of technology and the accessibility of available knowledge and resources, companies are likely to have policies and programs already in place to allow an environment conducive for allyship to thrive. But Thomas elaborates that if each employee doesn’t grasp the meaning of allyship in-depth, they end up becoming a hindrance.

Frontline team leaders are key drivers in achieving healthy working relationships. A Forbes article suggests some steps leaders can take to become models of allies in the workplace.

Be aware

Leaders cannot become effective empathizers if they decide to stay ignorant of the importance of allyship and the issues that surround it. 

Learning the historical injustices experienced by minority groups in the workplace can spark a newfound appreciation of team members who find themselves feeling left out or misunderstood. It doesn’t instantly make leaders perceived as allies by their team members, but being knowledgeable on the challenges people face is a good start. It’s essential to remember that employees come from different walks of life and should be treated with the same amount of respect they ought to receive.

Don’t assume what members need

Gestures and actions meant for allyship are not necessarily received as it is intended. It’s important to remember that people’s perception of what allyship looks like isn’t the same for everyone, so it doesn’t hurt to ask team members first before making any well-intended decisions.

Thomas shares an encounter she had with a colleague referring to an openly non-binary collegue who’s known to go by “they” as she. In her mind, her initial response would have been to correct her colleague, but she decided to approach her non-binary workmate and asked if they would have preferred to be addressed by the pronoun the employee wants to be identified as. 

Surprisingly, the employee expressed sincere appreciation towards Thomas’ empathy but mentioned that the encounter was not something too bothersome.

Learn to listen

Leadership requires assertiveness and direction, but empathy is also one characteristic employees are searching for in an allied leader. Conscious efforts to listen to team members will allow them to view leaders as safe places to express themselves without any judgment.

Due to the past definitions of leadership, leaders are thought to be problem solvers, so they do tend to impose unsolicited advice and opinions when employees come to them with their struggles. Instead of stressing out to appear as the hero in every situation, take time to listen to their concerns even if it takes more than one personal meeting. 

Use privilege to empower those without it

Everyone has some form of privilege others haven’t experienced for themselves such as physical state, educational attainment, relationships, etc. In light of allyship, privilege must be used to advocate for those people without it. Denying it will only widen the gap and cause weak working relationships. Becoming authentic about the advantages people enjoy versus the challenges people without privileges can open honest conversations that will ultimately lead to better allyship in the organization.