How Business Leaders Can Actually Help Black Employees

EPISODE 2

In this episode, we speak with Chris Pitre, and ask him to share in-depth about 9 questions that businesses leaders can ask themselves to start identifying constructs, biases, and policies that contribute to the mistreatment and mischaracterization of Black employees in their organization.  

Listen on:

SpotifyIcon
Apple PodcastIcon
AnchorIcon

Speakers

Feel the love! We aren't experts - we're practitioners. With a passion that's a mix of equal parts strategy and love, we explore the human (and fun) side of work and business every week together.

JeffProfile

Jeff

Director

linkedin-badge
MohProfile

Moh

President

linkedin-badge
NEW_HEADSHOT

Frank

Director

linkedin-badge
ChrisProfile

Chris

Vice President

linkedin-badge

Unknown Speaker
Welcome, welcome, everybody. Welcome back to love as a business strategy, where we dive into business through the lens of humanity, and people and we unpack the role that love plays. In a successful business. This is Episode Two, nice and fresh. And, you know, there's a lot going on in the world, we used Episode One, to really give a high level understanding of what we're trying to talk about here. And we talked about how we thought love was very relevant in environments where hate may be existing. Today, we wanted to actually kind of dive deep, very specifically, in a way that addresses something that's going on the world. there there's, you know, as, as you all should know, there's a current event where police brutality system integration ism. And diversity inclusion has become a very, very hot topic. And with that sensitivity out in the world, we thought it's very, very important to go ahead and talk about it a little bit. Our very own Chris Petri

Unknown Speaker
wrote an article

Unknown Speaker
that is being published on a lot of different ways. It's titled How business leaders can actually help black employees. And it's getting a lot of traction, we thought it'd be worth diving into that article. The article will be linked with this as well for you to go check out. But joining me, of course, is going to be Chris Krispie. Treat and as always, as les Frank Danna, and Muhammad Anwar and the four of us are going to dive into this welcome, guys. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. All right. And so without further ado, you know, Chris, we're going to talk high level about this real quick, but just so everybody knows you haven't read the article yet. It you You kind of succinctly broke out nine very tangible ways for business leaders and business owners and leaders and managers to think about this, this really tough and sensitive topic. And so can you just open us up with kind of a high level of where this article came from and what you were trying to get out of it? Sure. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker
So for me,

Unknown Speaker
and watching everything unfold in society and all the civil unrest and just the trends that have been coming across when it comes to very clear and obvious, acts against unarmed black, you know, men and women in America. My thoughts immediately go to Okay, my sphere of influence is in the workspace. And whether we like it or not, there are some very clear, at least to black people, and even other indigenous and underrepresented people of color inside of the workplace. These constructs biases and Just almost like this invisible veil, that we see feel and try and overcome every single day that other people just can't see, either because they are part of it, or because that never impacts them. And trying to get, you know, up until this moment, people to just acknowledge, understand it, and also understand how they can play a role in deconstructing It has been a challenge for a lot of DNI executives, especially in trying to engage with senior leaders, middle managers, frontline supervisors, all of those folks. Because again, if you're not a part of that underrepresented, or marginalized group, their struggle is sometimes really hard to perceive and have data around and sort of validate in a way that you know how to action. And so I wanted to write something that was tangible. I think, if you want to know where it lives and how it lives and what we see, these are nine clear areas you can go and investigate or explore in your company and come back with a conclusion they on that, I chose not to go and find all the data points and what this organization, I wanted you to find your own data.

Unknown Speaker
Awesome. So if you don't mind then let's dive in as a group here and just go question by question. There's nine of them. I'd love to read the question out loud. And I'd love for you to just kick us off here with question number one, you ask, How are black employees represented in your senior leadership team and board of directors?

Unknown Speaker
So this is always, to me the telltale sign of any company that's seriously committed to their sort of diversity commitments and the things that they outwardly Express when it comes to diversity and how much it's valued inside of their walls is, well, when I look at your pictures on your website, is it only white women that you have and that's your diversity representation, if you're in the tech space is that only Asians that you have and that's your representation of diversity. So it's really looking at the underrepresented minds. Ortiz and indigenous people of color in your in your particular organization, and how far and easily can they access those leadership positions in those decision making roles inside of your organization? And if you only have space for one, then my question and prompt for those leaders is to not just look at the top because what starts to happen is there's a conversation around the unfair share that's being requested by underrepresented folks, which means I now have to sort of unseat all these other people that have earned their spot and have worked hard to make room for people that might not have gone through the ranks or done enough or haven't sort of gotten, quote unquote, their their stripes. And instead of trying to just focus their look at what's happening beneath your senior levels of leadership, how is your promotional velocity of these underrepresented people of color in your organization? Are you aware of the reasons why attrition is happening or why people are not being promoted? Right, and I think Until a leader, especially a senior leader, or a board of director member starts looking at those numbers and asking for those numbers, will they honestly start saying we have a problem, right? And then for the organizations that have that outward commitment to diversity, when they look at those numbers, and you can, for your do your own research, go and look at how many percentage points are gained year over year, or if you've got a five year stretch, it's one to 1% 2%, right? Like we have 2% gains from where we started. And like, if this were a true business problem, or a sales goal or a market share goal, most business leaders will consider that a failure outright. And in five years, we've only gained two percentage points from where we started. And so if you say that you're committed to it, what are actually what are you doing about it? Where are you going with that data? And have you taken the time to not just look at the data but understand the stories that lie in that data

Unknown Speaker
interesting And also, you know, we're gonna we're gonna keep this dialogue going, you know, Frank, Mohammed from our perspectives, you know, this is a very interesting, very interesting and sensitive topic. And you know, it's gonna be very difficult for us to just speak out, right? So audience forgive us if we're more quiet in this episode, we are going to we are going to try to contribute here because of Mohammed, you are your business owner, you are, you know, Top Most in our organization. And Frank, you and I are leaders in this organization as well, that that is this is a highly relevant topic, and it's difficult, very difficult to talk about. So appreciate you guys being here, right? No problem. So question number two here that you pose, Chris, is, is your DNI team effective enough? Is your diversity inclusion team effective enough?

Unknown Speaker
And that's really asking our leaders empowering their di DNI teams in their work, right? So when we think about the work of a DNI executive or DNI team, it's not just represent Maybe their their point of difference, right? Because most DNI teams are made up of truly diverse individuals. And many of them are tasked with going to leaders and trying to bring to light issues and biases and constructs and processes and communications. That could be sort of unequally impacting those marginalized groups. And many times those executives and the DNI functions, then most of the time is trying to convince leadership that there is an issue, right, that actually getting to solutions, but just trying to convince them that this is something that is worth their time and attention, and should be a priority, and not be treated as Oh, will you just tell me what to do? And I'll do it. Right. A lot of times it's not there's no curiosity. There's no questioning, there's no way. Explain this to me like this is interesting. It's not that I'm pushing back, but I want to be better educated. So I know you've been away from this one issue or initiative. However, I can be a better advocate ally, or build platforms and processes that my own sort of leadership funnels can support or get behind or understand as you try and progress towards our DNI goals. So I think for, for me, it's looking at the looking at how leaders are really reflecting physically the DNI team, in terms of are our leadership teams diverse enough? Secondly, is our leadership teams empathetic enough, like our DNI teams to understand that, Hey, everybody does not have any equivalent and equal experience inside of this organization like I may have. And just to give you a story, like I am a black VP here at softly, right? So I could easily say I'm a black employee, therefore I'm marginalized. But the reality is, is that I may be black but I don't understand all the different walks that happen. It's awfully I have not lived everybody's lives. So as a VP I might have a very different experience, that's something I consider privileged or consider, you know, of the majority because I have a decision making role. And I can easily step out of consideration for folks that are living differently than I am. And maybe the unequal access they have to decision making, to power to information or education or opportunity, right. And that is something that, as a leader, no matter where you fall, no matter who you are, no matter what your racial background, or, you know, differential makeup is having the ability to ask yourself those questions and then seek that insight and then action. It is what I'm really trying to get leaders to do. Awesome.

Unknown Speaker
Going into question number three, then is, you ask is the highest concentration of black employees in support and junior roles?

Unknown Speaker
Yes. Right. So when we look at, again, the numbers, as DNI executives like to say, you look at the numbers, right? You start saying like, Listen, we're making strides, the 13% of our organization is black. And then you dig deeper into those numbers, chances are, you're going to find that those black employees are concentrated in your business support roles, such as call centers, IT help desk HR, marketing, potentially executive assistant roles. And in those organizations are probably lower at the bottom of those organizational constructs, right, Junior roles, beginner roles, you know, hourly roles, etc. And when we think about what that means, inside of the cycles of business, they are waves that we ride, right we, you know, can come high when it comes to revenue and then there's periods where you might fall When we fall, the roles that tend to get cut first, or experience some sort of setback or or reduced investment is those roles, those roles of business support. And we find ourselves in situations where employees of color, have their careers truncated. They have these befuddled sort of career paths, but because they live in these worlds and into these roles that are dispensable to a degree from a business perspective, right. And I know that Mohammed, you probably know that not just in terms of black people, but in terms of just employees of color, which includes brown and black people, right. India is seen as a support country, right. But within that they have their own situations and you might want to shed light on some of the differences that you might see outside of the US that still have, I think an impact on how those groups and those offices and those organizations experience, you know, that inability for certain regions or certain individuals to be able to move up or climb up or be in decision making capacity.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, no, absolutely. You know, it exists in its own unique forms in different parts of the world and from my experience having an office in Bangalore, India as well. It exists in a different lens over there. It's based on colorism, regionalism North India, South India, or which state you're from down to even religion at times. And so there are groups that are marginalized based on those differences at various levels. The organizations and corporations even across India, for sure.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. And so I think it's really important, like just coming back to that question like, digging into your data to see where your, your highest concentrations of like employees or people of color, it'll help you sort of start digging into like, why are they there? Why can't they move up? Why can't they move out? Why can't they be in decision making roles? And you might be able to find some good qualitative data that will suggest that maybe there's more to the story.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, and it's one of those things that kind of leads into your next question. Next question is, does your brand imagery reinforce the notion that black employees only play support roles? Yeah.

Unknown Speaker
And this is true of the Indian population, like you always see an Indian picture in tech. Right? Like, when you go to a career section of a website, to me, that's where the true stories are. built. I did some homework, just look at sort of the Fortune 10 companies and their career sections. And those stereotypical tropes of where people of color fall within an organization live in our imagery, you will see that there are diverse people represented and said imagery, but look at the roles they're playing in that imagery, executive assistants, black women, blue collar roles out on the rigs, or in uniform, black men, people receiving instruction from a white supervisor, whether that be a man or a woman, or people of color, right, I'm receiving instruction from the majority. And so it's not meant to be this like, we have to be so paranoid about our imagery. Now we have to overthink this and overcorrect. But it's really looking at the balance like if you create a mood board as we call it, or you assemble all the photography that you have in that career section and spread across your public facing experiences, you might see that there are tropes that can be sort of taken in a way that says that in this company, people of color will not be in leadership. Right? And, and that's not meant to say that is to be only people of color in all roles, right? But just think about like, Is there a balance? Are we showing that there is possibility for people of color to move up in this organization? And Frank, you sit in the creative side of things, right? You've been a associate creative director before, like, what is that challenge? Like? I'm interested now in just understanding like, as imagery gets selected, are those things even considered.

Unknown Speaker
So this happens all the time. And it's actually very interesting to me, because we do have folks on our team that are people of color that are creating final assets and final deliverables, and when I'm reviewing them, There's a lot of white people represented. And so some of my feedback over the years and this happens multiple times. And it's and it's not to say that they're intentionally doing it. But again, that kind of like that built in and trinsic focus of what we need to be creating, I've had to give the feedback of, Hey, we actually need to add more variety, to the skin colors in this and the different types of tones because there are people that aren't represented here. And so I think it's even built into the creative process, that if you miss that step, you'll just forget about it entirely. And so we've had to make sure in our from our creative team, that we take an extra step before a deliverable is completed, are marginalized people represented. Are there people represented equally, are different body types represented because not everybody looks like a model like we have to be very considerate of a lot of different factors and it's become part of our process to make sure that We're creating something that is fair and and honestly balanced in a way that represents the, you know, the way that people actually look.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. And I would have to say in in, in the, in India, you will see advertisements and marketing material favor towards fair skin are lighter skin. And it's, you know, again, misrepresented in terms of the populations and it's always leaning towards the lighter skin and fair skin. So much so that like, I think even the advertisement for getting models and actors, they will clearly say fair skinned preferred. I mean, that's how obvious they will make those ads to get actors in those roles and, or even movies. It's really leaning towards fair skinned and you'll see that variation in India as well, even down to advertisements with the white people will do probably perform better and India would outside of India to that effect. As well,

Unknown Speaker
I find it really interesting because typically as an Asian, that, I think that I, it's so engrained, I mean, I was born and raised in America. And I think I find it startling when I see an Asian lead actor, or in stock imagery if if an Asian happens to be in a, you know, non, you know, just different roles and, and it's my own culture, and I don't, I still imagine a white person, they're often right. Like, if I'm speaking honestly, it's kind of just what pops up in my head because I've been conditioned that way. So it's actually really, really interesting metrics to pull up in your organization to see what kind of truth that brings up very, very, really, really compelling. So the next question, Chris, you ask are our Family and Medical Leave Act leaves in your company FMLA disproportionately taken by black employees? Interesting. Yes.

Unknown Speaker
So this is actually a personal story for me because someone in my family had to do this. It's it's something that is I was a talked about it. He said, like when I go to my circle when I go to dinners out with, you know, black friends by family members, this is a conversation that comes up, which is, hey, my high co workers on my white supervisors are constantly doing these things that are microaggressions or are we call a shade, right? Like they're just these like little digs that they say that are inappropriate, and they are triggering, but you can't respond. And if you try and take it up to anybody, they don't see that that that's an issue or problem or problematic. Yeah, gaslighted. And so, taking an FMLA leave, allows you to sort of get a respite or break from that treatment, and your job is still protected so you can come back, but also if you want, you can still For a job, another job under the guise of I know I have something to fall back to. And then some people do it and hopes that they're doing it results in a change in their leader when they return. And it's unfortunate, but you will find that this is one of the sort of protected outs that lack of like employees, especially black women, to be honest have because the amount like the, the treatment that they get is just unparalleled, I will say so many anecdotes, I think we're seeing it play out in the media, where so many black women are starting to share what it means to to work with someone who is it's not necessarily racism but is a biased against you. Who doesn't understand that the words that they use are offensive or inconsiderate are excluding you are undermining you in certain ways. And just to give you guys a story, so When I first graduated, I just knew I was going to go in advertising. Like that was like my biggest like, that is my life dream. And so I would attend different events. And I sat in on a session at an advertising conference, where a black account executive was sharing her story about her first sort of job experience. And she went to work for this agency. And on the team that she joined, the custom was for the account manager, account director of that team to have almost like a sleep over with all of the sort of employees including the new hire, and they would make like a little celebration out of it. It was, you know, just a group of women. So that's what they did. And when she joined, she was a black woman, the boss of that team, you know, send a note a note out to everybody that said, Hey, for this one, we probably don't need to do any of that. And of course, that sends a message. But how do you go to HR and report that this discretionary thing that was that's optional that was on the boss was not allotted to you, and that you are sort of being mistreated when it's not required by the organization. Right. And so when you think about those types of experiences that black women and black employees have, I can't go and get someone to understand how that makes me feel. I can't go and explain to someone above that leader that what she's doing is dismissive, it's disrespectful. It's all those things because now I get painted as entitled. I get painted as divisive and combative and and perhaps, you know, in congruent with the values of the organization, so it's easier for me to just suck it up and move on. Well,

Unknown Speaker
well, amazing. Okay. Thank you for sharing that. That's eye opening for me personally. We're gonna keep moving. Question number six, you ask, are there trends of specific kinds of feedback in your performance management systems around black employees?

Unknown Speaker
So this is a, this is probably gonna elicit debate among us all, because I think the language that we sometimes see can be a dog whistle. And what I mean by dog whistle is it impacts offense and affects me, but nobody else will get it and everybody's gonna see it as a compliment. Or as you know, it's true, right? Like, I mean, you do have an attitude like, Well, why do I have an attitude when my peer who has bad days as much as I do, if not more than isn't attitudinal, right? And so we have these words that get ascribed to people of color, that are sort of dog whistles where we see the problematic nature of them, but we'll try and explain why they are problems and why they shouldn't be used. The pushback happens or the decision This happens. And so for me as a black man, I've always told

Unknown Speaker
articulate, Chris, you're very articulate.

Unknown Speaker
And my question is like, Well, everyone around me has to articulate themselves. All of my non black, you know, peers are not assessed on their articulation. But when it comes to me, that is what you're judging me by. And whether we like it or not, you're probably saying that because your image of black men is that in the media, they seem very inarticulate. So you find one that isn't, and you want to compliment them on that because in your head, you built this perception or the stereotype that black men are inarticulate. And so it comes out as a compliment from your end. But for me, it's perceived as like, what do you think of that? This is this confirms what I perceive your bias to be, which is that I should be inarticulate but I'm not. So therefore I'm doing good. And the same happens for you know, black women on their evaluation. Like, we see so sassy. And it's like, well, I don't think that that's what she intends to be. Because she gives you clear and direct feedback. Or she might tell she might give jokes from time to time on the team. But like, when it comes to again, what that would translate to for maybe a non black peers, Wow, she's really great with communication, or she knows how to bring a team together, right? Whatever the case may be, right? Like, you start seeing the difference in the language when it comes to reviews and feedback. So as a leader, if you have electronic, you know, systems for feedback, it would be interesting to compare your sort of keywords against different groups in the organization to see if there's a trend, because where there's a trend, there's a pattern where there's a pattern, that means that there might be issues that are deeper, more deeply seated in the organization.

Unknown Speaker
Well, that's a great point.

Unknown Speaker
Moving into question number seven is supplier diversity. afterthought.

Unknown Speaker
So, I'm going to be quick with this. We'll buy toilet tissue, we'll buy food, we'll buy sort of menial supplies. But we won't go to black owned businesses or minority owned businesses for strategic advice, legal counsel, financial guidance, anything like that. And that's, that's how the dollar is spent inside of many organizations. But we have supplier diversity programs, and we have banquets and awards and huge celebrations. But look at what you're buying from them. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker
Well, question number eight was dropping bombs. Just back to back. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker
Chris asks, Does your leadership development and training focus more on strategy, process and tools rather than people?

Unknown Speaker
And again, I think everybody here probably has some form of Men are interested in this question. But many times we think about the leaders and going back to even the earlier points about how empathetic are your leaders? Will you really look at how businesses are developing their leaders, developing them, developing them to be decision makers and be efficient, meaning how they manage their time, and how they act on strategy. But when you think about the huge component of a leader is to time it's about the people they lead and serve. But so few leadership development or training programs even touch or embrace, or require leaders to dig into the people aspect of leadership. Do you understand your differences? Do you understand yourself? But in that, do you understand how your teams are different than you? Do you know what struggles they may have? Have you thought about asking them? Do you have the relationship that will allow for you to go and have those open conversations? If not, those are the things that you should really be investing in and If I'm pipelining leaders, I should be looking at their ability to have a people that have people driven or people, people quality that will ensure that whoever I put them over will truly be successful and set up to be leaders themselves. Right. And so I think that those are the questions that we tend to skip over when it comes to assessing our training and development or leadership development strategies and content. And so I know that we clearly do Seneca, it's off way right? Which is all about looking at the softer side of leadership, so to speak, because though that's honestly where you get the biggest bang for your buck in terms of your leadership.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, a lot to unpack there. I'm sure we could find future episodes dedicated to that topic alone. For the sake of this one, let's let's move on to the last one. Question. Number nine, you ask our leaders uncomfortable leading, listening and acting on open conversations in turn Really around disparity exclusion or bias in the company.

Unknown Speaker
So, whenever people of color Speak up, I should say oftentimes when people of color try and speak up, they are greeted with the sort of reaction of disgust, disbelief, silence, maybe even absence, a hurried conversation where they can't get everything out. Because the leader is so uncomfortable, or the leader doesn't feel like because they've seen it or because they contributed in a way that wasn't intentional. It can't be valid. Right? I often say that we go against or as leaders, we might feel the need to invalidate lived experiences that are in congruent with the organizational values that we espouse. Because that would be the hardest thing. To address and fix if you've been complicit in it, and so many leaders shy away or don't show up for these hard conversations that don't encourage these hard conversations because guilt, persecution, and just a general lack of awareness might be what's really happening underneath the skin that we as people of color or outside of that don't really comprehend. all we see is that outward display, right. And so I think, going into that question the the culture of what I call toxic positivity, which means that like, we can't talk about the real stuff, because it's seen as negative. And if it's seen as negative, that means that we have to address it and having to address that means we have to put attention to a resources against we have to divert effort away from maybe other revenue earning initiatives, and I don't know if this is worth it, right. So problems must be framed as opportunities, right. We have to make sure that we Manage up to leaders that they only hear good news, even if it's real horrible and crappy for everybody else, right? So that contributes to this environment where the real issues, the microaggressions, the dog whistles that are happening for people of color can't ever come out and be addressed and, and sort of lend themselves to a conversation where everybody can lean in and say, like, I never realized that when I said that, I didn't know that that was even sending you that signal. Let's fix it, like help me understand what I can, what I can do to be a better teammate, to be a better leader, leader or to be a better support or advocate an ally for you so that I'm more you know, in your corner and you can sort of rely on me to speak up when you feel like you don't have that voice or that space to speak up.

Unknown Speaker
Well, I mean, there's a lot to unpack here. I encourage anybody I could encourage everybody go read, read the article is really well written. Great job on that, Chris. This perspective is important and you All four of us joined in today to listen to Chris. I know we didn't contribute a lot. But I think that's the point. I think we're here to listen, I think there's a lot of listening we need to be doing. And it speaks volumes that it's uncomfortable for us to, to talk about this. It's like, from our perspective as non-blacks and you know, even as other minorities, we don't understand the plight to its full extent and will further become part of the problem if we don't listen, as I really, really appreciate you, Chris, walking us through this and sharing. And, and and the encouragement here is that if we want love as a business strategy to be a reality, you can't have love without addressing this. That's our stance at software. And, you know, we have to check our own biases all the time. That's a big part of truly loving each other. And it connects to business. It connects to everything that's going on right now. And so, yeah, I mean, we We use this time up and we use it well, there's these nine, these nine tips are incredibly thought provoking. I hope we can have time to like, unfold some of them even more in detail. And of course, you know, there's a lot more to say about it. So yeah, I'm gonna leave it at that. Frank mode. Thank you for joining along in this listening journey. But yeah, Chris, especially thank you for sharing openly on this. And you guys will have a link for that article. That that that we're mentioning, and, you know, send us your questions, as always send us your feedback. You know, that's how we all get better together. So thanks, guys.

Unknown Speaker
Thank you. Thank you, Chris. Thank you. Thank you, guys.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

More Episodes