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  • Writer's pictureFletcher Consulting

What should this post say?

Is my voice important right now?

How can I keep from hurting someone with what I say—or by not saying anything?

The human suffering in Israel and Gaza is horrifying. My heart breaks for those living in the region. I have opinions on the conflict—but not any friends or family there, nor religious or cultural affiliations that would ground those opinions. So what gives me the right to share anything?

And yet, the very fact that I am not personally affected by the violence prompts me to reflect. As I watch the news from my home and worry over a blog post, I have to acknowledge my privilege:

  • I go to bed at night with an expectation of safety. I’m not worried about rockets, invasions, or kidnapping.

  • When I wake in the morning, I’m pretty sure I will have access to food, water, electricity and healthcare.

  • As upsetting as it is to witness the nightmare, I’m not worried about my loved ones in the region.

  • I am not living in fear of being personally impacted by the increasing anti-Semitism and Islamophobia here in the United States.

Ultimately, I am a bystander to this conflagration. As a DEI adviser, I am noticing a lot of tensions for leaders and employees in workplaces:

  • The expectation that organizations will make a statement

  • Disappointment in the substance and/or tone of the statement

  • The challenge of talking about the conflict at work

  • Anxiety of saying the wrong thing

  • Fear of being ostracized or demonized

So, rather than offering any insights about current events, I’m going to stay in my lane and share a few suggestions for navigating this moment in your organization:

  • Managers and HR and DEI professionals—check in with your employees who are Jewish, Palestinian, and/or who have connections in the region. This is a stressful time and they may need your support.

  • This is a good time for all of us to be mindful when we speak. Words matter. They can enlighten, comfort or cause harm. Avoid using language that dehumanizes whole groups of people.

  • Believe someone when they tell you that your words caused them harm. Remember that your intent may be benign, but your impact matters more. Apologize.

  • Conversely, if someone says something that lands on you badly, ask for clarification before assuming they meant harm. What did you mean by that? Why would you say that? Do you really feel that way?

Above all, this is a moment to extend grace and compassion to one another.

  • Writer's pictureFletcher Consulting

“How do we keep this going?”

A participant recently raised this at the end of one of my workshops, when I asked the group to list things they wanted to learn more about.

This question is on the mind of everyone who cares about making our society more equitable.

How do we keep this going? A particularly good question when many organizations appear to be disinvesting in DEI.

My answer? Embed DEI in your regular business practices. Put a DEI lens on everything you do. DEI work requires engagement at every level: the C-Suite, HR, middle managers, and individual contributors. “Keep it going” by keeping people thinking, talking, and engaging in these ideas between big projects:

  • Add one thing to the agenda of your weekly department meetings: a DEI success story (did anyone do something recently that impacts inclusion or equity?) or a DEI challenge (did someone navigate their own bias or experience a microaggression?).

  • Support your affinity groups or DEI committee in arranging a regular lunch and learn—to gather and discuss a book, article, video, or something important to a member. It doesn’t have to be huge. Inclusive workplaces are built on trust and relationships. Giving people consistent opportunities to hold conversations about differences keeps those muscles strong.

  • The DEI line items may be shrinking, but keep hold of a modest budget for activities. Bring in an outside speaker, offer an employee outing to a play, or just provide a meal or snacks at the DEI events.

  • Breaking down biases means opening up our social circles, so find ways to incentivize mingling. Offer free lunch to employees who don’t know each other to share a meal.

Keep equity and inclusion in the foreground...even if you don't use the words "equity and inclusion"

Use your sphere of influence to keep equity and inclusion in the foreground—even if you don’t use the words “equity and inclusion.” And no matter what enthusiasm, or lack thereof, you perceive around you, you always have control over your own time. Invest in your own development—do your own work—and share what you are learning and why it matters to you.

The question “How do we keep this going?” makes me optimistic.

Not just because of the words “keep going”—but because of the “we."

  • Writer's pictureFletcher Consulting

I did something this week that I really try not to do.

I responded to someone on Facebook.

It was in a group focused on my local community. A man posted to “alert other parents” that the middle school had sent a form to students that included questions about preferred pronouns.

He was outraged, especially about the follow-up question: “Do your parents and guardians know that these are your preferred pronouns?”

This particular parent felt that this was encouraging students to lie to their parents. Which is an interesting point, I thought.

But his use of the Fox News buzzword “indoctrination” set off my bias detector. It was the pronoun preference issue that really triggered him.

And when some brave soul replied with an alternative point of view—“I don't think it’s a big deal; the parents are not the child”—the man’s tone heated up even more.

It was one of those moments when two of my guiding principles were in direct conflict with each other.

One: if you see something that is biased that could be causing harm, say something. Last week my colleague Dr. Kiera Penpeci wrote about the importance of practicing allyship by speaking up, even if it’s just to create a pause so people can reflect on new perspectives.

Then there’s another of my guiding principles: don’t argue with people on Facebook.

I was directly in the middle of the two.

This man’s comments—and the follow-up ranting from him and his supporters—could cause harm to young people by normalizing biases about gender identity.

Do I just let that sit?

At the same time, I know that it’s pointless to argue on social media. This man is clearly not looking for feedback.

Speaking up in meetings, like Kiera did, can work because the community shares an investment in the outcome. Changing the dynamic in a group like that can create a feedback loop that changes behavior over time.

I have never seen that play out online.

So I thought about it. The original poster wasn’t listening to alternative points of view, but other people might be. Maybe I could contribute something worthwhile that would reach people reading the thread, so they would see a different perspective amid all the screaming.

For me, interrupting bias isn’t about changing someone’s belief system. It’s about stopping, or redirecting, the flow of the conversations; interjecting a different perspective—making clear that what was said isn’t the only way of thinking.

So that’s what I ended up doing. I wrote a few thoughts about the importance of treating people with respect by addressing them in the way in which they want to be addressed (names and pronouns), and about how not all adolescents can safely talk about this at home. The original poster responded with a couple angry and flippant posts.

At that point, I stopped. There’s no winning on Facebook.

But I did see a few other people “liked” what I said. I guess that’s a victory.

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