How Leaders Use Inclusivv Conversations To Talk More Openly About Race At Work

By Emily Bissel

Conversations about race in the workplace

The world has experienced a lot of heartbreak in just a few short months. From the attacks in Gaza to the racial crimes at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, there’s no denying the multitude of divides and tensions that still exist. 

We’re standing squarely in front of the issue again. (I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 2020.)

Yet, when we walk into the workplace – where we spend the majority of our time – we tiptoe around these topics. Maybe we nod in solemn agreement about how sad the latest death is while we pour a cup of coffee, or shake our heads in disbelief with each other about the violence in the world today. I’m willing to bet most of us don’t go deeper than that.

Some might argue the workplace isn’t appropriate for these conversations. However, the weight of these issues follows us into our jobs every day, accumulating with each death, each tragedy. To leave the emotions these events evoke at the door is an unrealistic expectation.

Businesses and workplaces need to give employees permission to talk about these subjects. How can we expect our incoming middle managers to know how to grapple with racism, hatred, and bias if we can’t do it ourselves?


How Inclusivv is getting more leaders to unlearn bias and talk more openly about inclusion

At Inclusivv, we recognize the importance of addressing these issues head-on, and that's why we recently hosted an Inclusive Leadership Journey training session on Understanding Race in honor of Black History Month. During this session, we invited our friends at the Groundwater Institute to provide a 20-minute training on the realities of race and the importance of addressing the root causes, the systemic issues, in order to create real and lasting change.

This training brought together people from organizations and communities around the world, and the response was overwhelming:

“Great information from Inclusivv and your guests from Groundwater Institute. As always, it led to thought provoking conversations in our small group. Thank you for all you do!”

“Someone in our breakout room said racial equity is being able to show up into a space and not feel othered and being empowered and accepted as our true selves. I loved that.”

“Great data that I had never seen before and I loved the Groundwater Institute metaphor, also new to me. I had great dialogue with people across the country as well.”

“This was a great conversation and will help to facilitate a better understanding of race and equity.”


Celebrating Cultural Diversity at Work: Inclusivv Membership Conversation


Following the training, Inclusivv facilitated a 60-minute conversation on Understanding Race. This was an opportunity for participants to share their perspectives on race in a safe and supportive environment. 

People shared their stories of losing loved ones to police violence, experiencing redlining and not being able to buy a home, and feeling pressure to conform to certain stereotypes or expectations in the workplace. The pain was open and shared, and regardless of how personal an event was, Inclusivv members developed empathy in areas that are commonly closed off.

This conversation was a powerful reminder of the importance of listening to and learning from each other's lived experiences. By acknowledging our shared humanity and hearing each other's stories, we can begin to bridge the gaps that divide us.

This is crucial because how can we connect and feel with those who are different from us if we never hear their stories? If we never listen to their stories? If we're never in the same rooms (because less than 100 years ago we weren't even legally allowed to be in the same room together. Let that sink in).


Why leaders need to "do the work" for racial equity

As inclusive leaders, it’s our responsibility to create spaces where these conversations can happen openly and honestly. We must be willing to confront our own biases and privileges, and to actively work towards building a more inclusive and equitable workplace for all. This means not only acknowledging the existence of systemic racism, but also taking steps to dismantle these structures and create opportunities for everyone to thrive.

Inclusive leaders have the power to shape the next generation of leaders and prepare them for success in an increasingly diverse world and workplace. Just look at the workforce demographics of today, they happen to be the most racially diverse in American history.

The more that we admit that we are human and that these events do affect us (in different ways), the easier it will be to understand each other, to collaborate on solutions, to be more engaged in our work, and to create the type of culture where everyone is energized to go to work.

  • Organizations with the most racial diversity are 35% more likely to earn above-average financial returns
  • 80% of employees say racial justice and equity issues should be on corporate agendas
  • 40% of employees said they would likely quit their jobs if their company did not prioritize addressing social or racial injustice
  • 49% of employees said the lack of inclusivity in their workplace makes them less likely to choose in-person work


It won't be easy, and it won't happen overnight, but by working together with humility, compassion, and determination, we can create a future where race no longer dictates one’s opportunities or outcomes, and all voices are heard and valued.

We all must lead by example. It's time for you to join the conversation.



Inclusivv is leading the way in promoting courageous conversations in workplaces and communities. Whether you're a leader or an individual seeking to make a difference, there are resources available to help you start meaningful conversations and contribute to a more inclusive world.



Tags: Race, Diversity, Workplace

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