“How Can I Be an Ally to a Marginalized Co-Worker?”

Contribute to a more inclusive workplace – one small but powerful gesture at a time.

“How Can I Be an Ally to a Marginalized Co-Worker?”

Although society overall has become less blasé about discrimination, the cards are still stacked against minorities and marginalized groups. The #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements have drawn attention to the discrimination that historically marginalized groups still face in society and in the workplace. This has many of us wondering how we as individuals, going about our everyday lives, can contribute to a more inclusive world – in whatever ways we can.

One way to do so is to become a workplace ally. Commit to decisive action against discrimination. Learn to recognize and start speaking up against microaggressions – subtle, often unintentional but nonetheless hurtful acts of discrimination.

In Subtle Acts of Exclusion, Tiffany Jana and Michael Baran recommend fostering a work culture that encourages speaking up about microaggressions. The authors prompt you to think about a time when someone’s comment or action made you feel excluded. Reliving your experiences will help you know when to step up as an ally. The authors suggest you follow up with the initiator later in private to make them aware of the unintended slight and why it matters. Explain what part of someone’s statement made you uncomfortable. Invite the offender to participate in an open conversation in which the goal is learning and inclusion:

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Subtle Acts of Exclusion

An inclusive corporate culture fosters greater collaboration, productivity, happiness and connection.

Tiffany Jana and Michael Baran Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Melinda Epler, an advocate for workplace inclusion and diversity, shares her advice on becoming a supportive ally in an inspiring TED talk. To be an ally, she says, be civil to everyone, champion your colleagues, mentor those with less privilege than you and promote “allyship” across your organization:

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3 Ways to Be a Better Ally in the Workplace

“Allyship” combats the “microaggressions” that erode individual confidence and company culture.

Melinda Epler TED Conferences LLC

People who don’t experience discrimination on a regular basis themselves can feel uneasy around marginalized or discriminated members of society. They often stand back for fear of doing or saying anything wrong. Yet African American designer and entrepreneur Amélie Lamont says that people who suffer under systemic oppression need and welcome the support from people of all walks of life. In an open source guide, she offers clear, actionable and highly useful advice on how to be an ally – the right way:

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The Guide to Allyship

Be an ally – the right way!

Amélie Lamont Guide to Allyship

In How to Be a Workplace Ally, the non-profit organization Lean In offers actionable advice on how to combat sexism in the workplace. The advice, however, can be adapted to benefit other marginalized groups as well. Women can – and should – stick up for one another to fight prejudice at work, the authors contend, from stepping in when a female co-worker is interrupted at a meeting to mentoring aspiring female leaders:

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How to Be a Workplace Ally

These concrete solutions will help women work together and advocate for one another in the workplace.

Lean In Lean In

Women and people of color are disproportionately stuck doing the unnoticed but necessary office housework that keeps a business running. As opposed to glamour work that earns accolades and promotions, housework is exhausting and can hurt people’s status at the company. In a New York Times’ article, Alan Henry offers powerful tools for marginalized employees to become better advocates for themselves:

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How to Succeed When You’re Marginalized or Discriminated Against at Work

No productivity hack in the world will help you if your work goes unnoticed.

Alan Henry The New York Times

Henry admits, however, that real change can only come from management. And to get leadership’s attention, these unsung heroes will need allies – like you.

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Discrimination

Discrimination hurts your people and your bottom line. Make personal advancement in your company dependent on performance, and don’t let anyone hold people back because of their differences. Diversity leads to innovation and success, but discrimination is a dead end.


This article is part of getAbstract’s effort to raise awareness of the seriousness of racism in society. Here, you will find free resources on the topic that educate and offer strategies to change an untenable situation.

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