Allyship is a process of promoting systemic equity and inclusion through continuous efforts, empowering sections of people that often get marginalized.
In this piece, I divulge some of my own experiences from workplaces where I learnt a thing or two about allyship.
Express genuine interest
Oftentimes, new and micro creative agencies get brushed aside either due to a seeming lack of strategy or due to a much smaller creative footprint. So, when this female founder came in, representing her startup focussed on food photography, I was not sure if the discussion would last long. But, it did! It did because the Head of Marketing was genuinely interested in her work. The discussion revealed to us that in spite of her lesser experience in handling big clients, she met the professional requirements for the project at hand!
A true display of allyship is when we open ourselves up to the views, work and stories of other people with an unbiased mind.
In another experience, I noticed that the CEO of the company I worked with never left the discussion rooms without taking viewpoints from everyone. We also saw him take notes as we spoke. The discussion meetings with him were most often high energy because everyone knew that their opinion mattered!
Respect people and their time
In my stint at a food startup, I had a chance to work with a manager who had an immense respect for time. Her meetings were carefully timed, most often to 15 minutes. The agendas were clear and circulated beforehand. The action items agreed and published right after the meetings. But what I enjoyed the most was that her method of work distribution was equitable. She steered a lot of project discussions herself, helping me focus on key deliverables and freeing up time for team management.
When I moved into my next role in a larger organization, I expected a better version of the same work culture. Boy, was I wrong! As a newcomer, I did not know why did I have to be part of every single meeting. Soon, discussions and meetings started taking up more than 60% of my daily work time. My manager relied on me for every small and big task, keeping me occupied throughout the day. I started doing overtime every single day. When direct communication did not help, I approached my skip level manager with some actionable ideas. In less than a week, I was able to free up about 20% of my time by choosing which meetings to attend and another 15% by staging projects and delegating different workstreams.
Key features of becoming an ally at work is to build genuine respect for people and their time, promote an equitable distribution of work and be open to feedback to make positive changes.
Create a considerate atmosphere
One of my team members was late to work almost everyday. He missed the morning catch ups and the update meetings regularly. This was getting more and more noticed on the floor and I did not know what to do. My skip level manager suggested speaking to him to check if a different work schedule would help him on a temporary basis if a personal situation demanded more attention at this time. The suggestion completely shifted my perspective. I moved away from rationalizing performance to exercising empathy. When I spoke to him, he was filled with gratitude for the consideration offered.
One of my deepest learning in building allyship is based on this experience of building a more humane relationship with people at work and creating a truly considerate atmosphere for all.
Along our journey, we find people at different points on the continuum of allyship based on their awareness of and experience in the topic.
One of the most important things that we can do to promote allyship is to create an awareness of equity in our micro environments, force a change when things go awry and work consciously and consistently to sustain the positive changes that others may have brought in.
Creating a solid foundation of an equitable and inclusive workplace is a responsibility that everyone shares.