Uncomfortable Information is Necessary
A number of years ago, I was in a meeting with the head of HR discussing employee development and succession planning. As we discussed our thoughts on people within the HR department, the leader said, “ugh, Lisa. She’s horrible.” Lisa was one of two black employees within HR. I had only recently joined the company and didn’t yet know the backgrounds of all the employees. I asked the HR head, “what’s wrong with Lisa?” “She’s so militant and angry. She doesn’t really fit in,” she said. After probing further, I learned that Lisa was actually highly attuned to employees concerns about discrimination and diversity. In the eyes of the white boss, this was seen as trouble and she just didn’t want to hear anything negative (from anyone other than herself). What she was missing was valuable insight into the thoughts of employees from a perspective we could never truly understand.
I instantly bonded with Lisa, and continually learned so much about the needs and struggles of the BIPoC employees. Sadly, my influence over the direction of her career was limited due to the ingrained beliefs of the HR leader. As Lisa got shuffled around and layered, she realized how limited her options were, and ended up leaving the company. While those who, through fear had aligned themselves with the boss saw this as a victory, it was definitely a loss for the organization. When you have the responsibility of looking after people and nurturing the company’s culture, stifling minority voices is a dereliction of your authority. It’s laziness. It’s weakness. It will destroy your brand and ultimately your organization.