How employees can start grassroots DEIB initiatives

by Nov 3, 2021

This blog is part of a 4-part series on creating DEIB in the workplace, talking about diversity among colleagues, and what sorts of initiatives companies, managers, and employees can take to amplify those discussions. Read part one here, and read part two here

Lauren Collins is the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Director at Premise Health. She’s a licensed clinical social worker and a certified Daring Way facilitator, which is based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown. Sonic Boom Wellness is a Premise Health company — we caught up with Lauren to ask her many questions about how to integrate more DEIB programs and dialogue into any work environment.

Before you begin …

Sonic Boom Wellness: What tips do you have people who want to start these conversations? I know for me, as a white person, I was never exposed to any of this, and I do fear saying the wrong thing or not showing up in the best way to be an ally.

Lauren Collins: One piece is taking some time to do some learning. Reading books, joining book clubs, watching TED Talks — exposing yourself to conversations that are already happening can really be helpful. Sometimes it comes off as I don’t know anything, so I’m just going to talk. Then a lot of people shut down when they’re challenged on what they did to be ready to have that conversation.

Another piece is having the ability to not take things personally. If you’re going into that conversation trying to be an ally, know it’s not about you. Sometimes it’s also knowing when it’s not your time to talk. I think that’s when a lot of people shut down — when they’re talking when someone else should be talking. So much of it is listening, and those conversations are happening, whether people are privy to them or not. People are talking anyway, so it behooves us all to be a part of them.

Starting the DEIB convo

Sonic Boom: And what are some safe ways that employees can start these conversations among each other?

LC: There’s so much of that happening right now! For example, there’s Black people in IT communities meeting and talking about what that’s like. There are groups that want to learn more about XYZ. There have been a lot of people with their own passions and bringing those to the table, and that’s really cool too. Or they have something personal to them they want to talk about. That’s always been happening; we just now are talking about making space for it and supporting it.

Also the things that make us see each other don’t have to be related to this topic. They can be things like birthdays. Work anniversaries. Just acknowledging the things that make you, you. Unfortunately, we’ve been cultured to be afraid of certain parts of each other, so it’s about widening the lens, so we are really including more of a person.

Focus on the DEIB mission

Sonic Boom: What would you say to employees who might feel that their management team doesn’t see diversity, equality, inclusion, and belonging as something to address in the workplace?

LC: I think it gets back to the heart of the mission. At Premise Health, I always like to remind people that we are in healthcare. People across this nation are trusting us to help them stay and be well — mentally, physically, and emotionally. I know it can feel easy to feel removed from that if you aren’t working onsite at a clinic. But people are putting their life and death in our hands, and that’s a really big responsibility. There’s no way we can do that well if we aren’t tending all the things that impact a person’s ability to live and be well. But for any business model or industry, you can’t say you’re truly mission-focused if you’re picking and choosing the parts of the mission you like.

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