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When Performative Allyship "Wins": A Costly Miscalculation

I've working my tail off. You know how it goes when you've got multiple projects as an entrepreneur, right?


I finally wrapped up this intense project with a recent client. Let me tell you, it was a real emergency as this organization was facing some serious discrimination claims from a former employee. Poor thing tried to bring it up with the higher-ups but was ignored. So, she took matters into her own hands like a boss and went straight to the Board. Kudos to her!


During the listening sessions, more than ten current employees came forward with similar stories of workplace discrimination. It was disheartening to see such a pattern emerge. But, as a professional investigator, my findings unquestionably validated their claims. We're talking about racism, ageism, and harassment here. Not cool at all.


I couldn't wait to share these alarming results with the CEO and Board Chair. I had high hopes that they would be committed to making positive changes. Boy, was I wrong! Instead, I faced denial and victim-blaming. The CEO brushed off the claims like they were nothing, and the Board Chair coldly suggested unhappy staff should just quit.


Rather than embracing my recommendations for improving the company culture, they decided to hire a so-called "spin doctor" to bury the truth. You see, this performative allyship they displayed was just a facade – a way for them to avoid taking responsibility. Well, guess what? Their failure in leadership has now landed them in a lawsuit, accusing them of discrimination and assault.


Listen up, everyone. It's crucial to have leaders who are not only culturally aware but also sensitive and competent enough to foster an inclusive workplace. Culturally intelligent leaders actively seek to understand diverse perspectives and have the courage to challenge the status quo.


Consider this story a cautionary tale. I'm not sharing this to rag on a client. I'm sharing this because performative allyship in business is no joke. When toxic behavior is tolerated, it becomes the norm. And when leadership stays silent, it speaks volumes.


Many are proclaiming that “DEI is dead.” DEI may be "dead" but let me tell you, Benjamin Franklin is alive and well. It’s better, easier, and less expensive to do the right thing.

How to Find the Right Mentor Relationship: To develop a successful relationship with a mentor, you must:   1.     Determine your short- and long-term goals   2.     Identify the type of mentor you need  a.     Advisor  b.     Advocate  c.      Affirmer  d.     Challenger   e.     Coach  f.      Connector  g.     Sponsor  3.     Decide if you want one-on-one or group mentorship and virtual or in-person sessions  4.     Review your professional circle and pinpoint who has your “dream job”  5.     Determine if the person is the right fit by learning about their experience in the industry or role and evaluate their successes, challenges, character, and values  6.     Create your elevator pitch  7.     Specifically tell the person what it is about their professional or personal experience that made you reach out to them and make them ask to mentor you  8.     If the person is unable to serve in a mentor capacity, birds of a feather tend to flock together, so ask them for a referral to someone that has a similar experience as they do


If any of you find yourselves facing similar workplace challenges without getting any help from HR, here's what you can do:


1. Start documenting everything. Keep a written record of discrimination incidents, including dates, times, witnesses, relevant quotes, and actions taken. Having it all on paper creates a timeline that sheds light on systemic issues.


2. Don't hesitate to seek legal counsel. Consult an employment lawyer who can guide you through your rights and options. They'll be able to assess whether illegal discrimination or harassment is taking place.


3. Look for alliance opportunities. Affinity employee resource groups bring together individuals with shared identities and experiences. It's essential to find support among like-minded colleagues.


Creating an inclusive workplace requires humility, courage, and purposeful action. Performative allyship might protect those in power for a while, but it erodes the organization's overall health. Learn from these cautionary tales and strive to build positive workplace cultures.


Even though the CEO and Board Chair believe they've achieved a "win" through denial and deception, their performative allyship will ultimately be quite costly. With multiple victims and solid evidence of systemic discrimination, legal accountability is just around the corner. Let's learn from their mistakes and create better workplaces for all.


Oh, by the way, big thanks to all of you who took the time to complete the survey. Your feedback means the world to me. Instead of stuffing your inbox every week, I've decided to switch things up a bit.


Starting now, you'll receive "Wisdom Wednesday" on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of every month—a little nugget of wisdom to brighten up your mid-week slump.


Talk to you soon,


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