A few weeks after Alex and Michelle’s virtual conversation about Andi, Michelle reaches out to Alex once again with a chat message stating, “Please let me know when you have a quick moment to chat! I need to talk to you about something ASAP!” Alex videoconferences with Michelle.
“Alex! Thank you so much for taking this meeting so fast! I just had to talk to someone about all of this!”
Alex frowns, concerned. “No problem, Michelle. What is going on? Are you okay?”
Urgently, Michelle asks, “Did you hear about Andi?”
Alex hesitates. Michelle seemed to have been doing some soul searching since their last conversation. Were they really about to have another conversation about email signature blocks?
“Umm… Michelle, we already talked about Andi’s pronoun choices. Is that what this is about?”
“No! Well, kind of. Let me explain. Toni will be going with an outside hire for an open managerial position. ”
Alex is visibly shocked. “Oh… oh, gosh! I really thought Andi was a shoo-in for that position! They’ve been here for such a long time and they’ve always been such a good team member. I really thought the company wanted to move them into management, too.”
Now, it’s Michelle’s turn to hesitate. “Alex… I don’t really know how to say this… but, you don’t think this had anything to do with Andi asking us to use the… you know… the different pronouns?”
Alex considers Michelle’s question carefully. “Honestly? I don’t know. I mean, Toni seems to be really progressive and knowledgeable about gender diversity and respecting an individuals' self-expression through gender-pronoun usage. But going with an outside hire instead of Andi feels like a very strange decision. Andi has been to almost every management training session we’ve offered this year. They’re always trying to learn and volunteer for projects. I know they have been seriously working towards this position. I’m sure it has nothing to do with their gender identity. Still, I don’t know of any performance issues. Although to be fair, Toni might not share that information with me. Still, we’re pretty close, so I feel like I could probably tell if there were any issues. I don’t know. I really hate to see Andi get passed over like that.”
Michelle nods in agreement. “Me, too. I feel like I should do something. I know I’m no poster child for being an ally or anything. And I know that in our last conversation, I may have come off as either ignorant or totally intolerant. This is just… this is really different for me. When I was growing up, this wasn’t something we talked about and I’m not always great with change. But I don’t think that should affect anyone’s job! I remember when I told my previous manager at my old job that I was pregnant. I constantly wondered if my upcoming maternity leave was the reason I was overlooked for positions and that was absolutely terrifying and draining. I don’t want anyone else to feel that way.”
Alex sighs in agreement but stays silent, wondering how to help.
Alex is pleasantly surprised that Michelle is familiar with the new initiative their organization had been supporting, Employee Resource Groups (ERG). Pat had encouraged a number of employees to form CRGs while working to create a more inclusive culture but had sensed that many still didn’t feel secure enough to step into a leadership role. Both employees and management had been more receptive to new opportunities for colleagues to connect and support each other. And the ERGs were slowly gaining momentum. “The Pride ERG? I think so, but I don’t know for sure. Why? Are you a member?”
Michelle shakes her head. “Well, no! At least, not right now… but I was thinking about joining? I mean, I realize we don’t know if this promotion thing happened because of Andi’s pronoun request, but… I thought that maybe by joining the ERG, Andi might know that we support them and maybe they’ll be more comfortable coming to us if they have concerns. I know I don’t always get this right and it makes me a little nervous. Would you… want to sign up with me? I think they’re doing a virtual call soon. I thought we could sign up together."
Alex grins. “Michelle, I would absolutely love to! How do we join?”
Establishing a ERG is a great way to create an inclusive culture. However, there is a lot of back-end work that must occur before such an initiative can be put in place, including legal counsel review to ensure compliance with anti-discrimination laws. Read below to learn more about ERGs or affinity groups in the workplace.
Personal experiences can be a powerful tool to help provide context in the workplace, however, such experiences may also cloud or create biases in how you perceive workplace matters. Take a step back. Talk to a colleague or a manager and discuss your concerns.
What would you like to do next?
Would you like additional resources to learn more about colleague resource groups, discrimination in the workplace or other topics discussed in this path?
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