When I look back on the last year, sometimes I think I’ll remember it as the year filled with difficult conversations.  It’s as if every week, I have to relearn how to address challenging topics with my team. This must be how teachers feel all the time. 

Again, we are faced with a profound question: How do we dismantle blatant racism? With over 3,800 hate crimes targeted against the AAPI community in this last year alone, this past week’s event in Atlanta serves as a glaring reminder of how much work as a country we have to do to create a safe and inclusive space for all.

As managers, and notably, leaders in our companies, it is our responsibility to create a safe, inclusive work environment for everyone. And while we cannot control what happens outside our workplaces’ walls , we can control how we address what happens externally, internally.  And that’s important to remember.

Back in January, when there was an insurrection at the capitol, Harvard Business Review wrote a great article about how to talk with your team about violence at the capitol (regardless of political beliefs) and why it was essential to do so. 

But the advice extends beyond addressing politics at work.  It provides five concrete actions that all of us can take to foster an inclusive and supportive work environment.   

  1. Create Space
  2. Acknowledge
  3. Affirm
  4. Personalize
  5. Offer Support

I think a crucial point to remember is that building an inclusive culture and a representative team is an ongoing process. Each person that joins our teams and each person that leaves it changes the dynamic of our work environments.  We can’t just have a conversation once about a singular event and then pat ourselves on the back.  As leaders, we need to foster open dialogue constantly.  We need to have the difficult conversations early and often. 

Change won’t happen overnight, but it will never happen if it’s an afterthought.