Allyship in the Workplace

There are numerous descriptions and definitions related to ‘ally’ in the workplace and sometimes defining your role can be confusing.  When you want to do the right thing but don’t know where to start, what do you do?


Until you gain a better understanding of marginalization and how you can have a positive impact on your workplace culture of support, start with the most basic of explanations.  The most simple definition of an ally we found is ‘someone who is not part of a marginalized group and takes action to support that group’.  Not only is this definition simple and clear, most importantly, it encourages everyone to take action.


To begin, keep your actions uncomplicated as you continue to grow your understanding of the ally role and the challenges faced by marginalized individuals in your workplace. Try something as simple as speaking to your colleagues and coworkers about what you perceive as marginalization…but be careful to not put the burden of your learning on anyone else. 


When in doubt, remain curious. Rather than making assumptions, do some homework.  There are a multitude of books and online articles about systemic racism and marginalization out there.  This article from Harvard Business Review is a good place to start.  You can also listen to it in an audio file.   

Have conversations and join other allies to help you create a clear understanding of the value and benefits that arise from being an ally.  You don’t need to do all the work yourself; build on the learning of others and work together to impact positive change. Here are a few things to consider as your awareness grows: 

  1. Understand privilege & power. Gain some insight into how you might experience privilege in the workplace and then use that privilege to support and grow others while you grow yourself. When looking to understand privilege in the workplace, it helps to first think about what rights you have those others do not. Again, do your homework.
  2. Listen.  Make every effort to try to understand the workplace experience of marginalized groups. Understand that not everyone experiences the world as you do; even within marginalized groups, individuals have different ways of processing. Seek out resources available and recommended for educating yourself on how to be a better ally in the workplace.  Educate yourself. (Are you noticing a theme here?)
  3. Accept change. As you learn, you may find that in the past you have held some incorrect assumptions. You will likely discover things you’d not even considered before. Honest and candid conversations can be uncomfortable. That’s normal and it’s OK. Lean into your discomfort and know that it means you’re learning, you’re growing and you’re better positioned to be an effective ally.

Work to amplify the voices of change; don’t be a silent witness and don’t accept silence from others.  Endeavour to make sure that all voices are heard; do all you can to create the time and space for the input of marginalized individuals or communities. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself as you continue to create a clear understanding of the value and benefits that arise from being an ally. Together, we can do this.

The Neutral Zone can provide training, coaching and counselling to support you in becoming a better ally.  Contact us for a free consultation. 

Allyship in the Workplace

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