How Nonprofit Leadership Can Foster a More Inclusive Workplace Following the Election

By YW Boston

MNNNovember2020-min

With the election this month, it is expected that nonprofit employees’ attentions have been on the results and its effect on areas related to their mission. Nonprofit leaders may be wondering, “Should we be discussing the results within the workplace? If so, how?”

During a recent YW Boston DEI Community of Practice meeting, the team of DEI professionals shared their questions, concerns, and strategies for supporting inclusive workplaces during a contentious election season. Here is a summary of this discussion along with additional resources.

Fostering an inclusive workplace demands a commitment to digging deeper, creating an environment conducive to open and honest communication and to the challenging issues or conversations it can surface. To do so effectively, a senior leader must build knowledge and understanding of implicit bias and how it functions, particularly in regards to race; explore methods to interrupt this bias through building awareness and new habits; and apply this learning through small group activities.

Here are a few questions to consider following the election:

  • How explicitly do we address this?
  • Do we issue an internal statement? An external statement?
  • How might the election results impact our employees?
    • For example, if protests erupt after the election, how might that impact employee’s commutes? Their ability to focus on work?
    • What would it look like to try to mitigate these issues?

As leaders in your organization, you have formal authority. It is important to keep in mind that what and how you communicate sets the tone for others. Communication can feel perilous at times when it is unclear what to say, but hesitance to start critical conversations has its own pitfalls; employees and stakeholders do and will remember a lack of communication too. Effective communications will tie the messaging to organizational values, focus on the effect rather than the result of the election, name the concerns people may have, and address them.

Following the election, leaders can remember to:

  • This election season, alongside COVID-19, has brought deep disruption and uncertainty.
  • Acknowledge that employees may be feeling uncertain or finding it difficult to focus.
  • Recommit to core values of DEI, trust, respect, and shared focus of the work.
  • Consider conversations that employees can opt-in to.

There are many forums that can foster community and provide space for staff voices. Digital message boards, technology, messaging applications such as Slack, virtual employee resource groups, affinity group spaces, structured meetings, opt-in spaces, or facilitated conversations and town halls are all options that offer the opportunity to connect. With the proper framing, norms, and community agreements, you can help curate a space that continues to build community and understanding.

A town hall with the CEO or other senior leaders provides an opportunity for open dialogue across a whole organization, and for leadership to centralize messaging. If planning a town hall, the following considerations should be made in an effort to effectively hold space:

  • Be clear in the purpose
  • Protect time, town halls require a lot of preparation
  • Understand what questions are likely to be asked beforehand
  • An honest assessment of whether the leader has the skills and emotional intelligence to do it.

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About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

As part of that work, we are helping organizations prioritize Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and become socially connected while staying physically distant. During this time, YW Boston is providing organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. For more information, please contact Sheera Bornstein at sheera@ywboston.org.