Acknowledge. Advocate. Act.
I remain confounded by the damaging and unproductive politicization of the COVID-19 health crisis that has struck many countries across the world, including my own. But I take comfort in the fact that many businesses, including yours, were early to act during the emergence of the crisis by implementing social distancing, work from home flexibility, and other socially conscious employee policies even before they were mandated by local governments.
It demonstrated that businesses can exhibit logic, reason, creativity, and compassion while still doing your best to move your economic plans forward. Put another way: business can lead when some governments do not yet have the will.
No doubt you have heard of another social crisis occurring in the US. This one even more chilling because of its purely societal roots. Recent killings of innocent black Americans by law enforcement have once again exposed the systemic racism that persists in my country.
This has led to feelings of hopelessness, anger, despair, and fear. Politics aside, I believe as global citizens our businesses share a common ground that binds us together.
We believe in justice, equality, and fairness for all, independent of the color of a person’s skin.
As individual contributors, team managers, department heads, and executive leaders, we each have a small but meaningful opportunity to effect positive change. I am the first to admit that I do not have answers. At a minimum, however, I believe we can take three small steps as business leaders:
Don’t merely rely on corporate diversity statements to do your talking. Acknowledge that people of color on your team may have endured psychological if not physical harm.
To borrow heavily from a Harvard Business Review anti-racism article written by Laura Morgan Roberts and Ella F. Washington, none of us have the perfect words to address atrocities such as these with our teams. “But it is the leader’s responsibility to try, conveying care and concern for all employees, especially targeted groups.”
Don’t be silent. Create a safe space for advocacy and listening.
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Of course, each team leader must decide for herself or himself how to activate positive change. This can include:
- Adding employee educational programs and community outreach.
- Simply managing with more compassion.
- Asking HR to review compensation structures to ensure pay equity regardless of race or gender.
Even the smallest companies that lack an HR department can find ways to act. At Hapatune, we are searching for small but meaningful ways to effect change. We are:
- Educating our families on expressing kindness to all.
- Witnessing the positive impact of peaceful protests.
- Searching for community outreach opportunities.
- Contributing 1% of our first half 2020 sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Business has proven it can lead in the face of adversity. We have another opportunity to lead. It is up to each of us to acknowledge racial inequality and take meaningful action to stamp it out.
Acknowledge. Advocate. Act.
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