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6 Ways to Be a Better Ally in the Workplace

6 Ways to Be a Better Ally in the Workplace

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As a leader in diversity recruiting and hiring tools, we are both responsible for and committed to promoting and driving representation, inclusion, and equity in the hiring space. It brings us closer to our vision of a world where all hiring is equitable, efficient, and transparent. 

As a step in this process, we launched our Ally Series. It is a series of content built on the foundation of providing both jobseekers and employers with the resources and valuable information to address DEI in the hiring space.

Related: What is DEI? How Does it Improve the Sales & Tech Job Search Process? 

In a world of increasing opportunity, economic mobility, and openness, companies are learning inclusivity and diversity are not only good for employees — but also for business. As our CEO, Josh Brenner, stated in Hired’s 2022 State of Wage Inequality in the Tech Industry report, “When competition is high, it benefits organizations to consistently identify non-traditional talent. It creates more robust pipelines of candidates with new ideas to drive businesses forward.” 

As organizations push to create environments where diverse sets of employees feel comfortable and supported, other employees — often referred to as ‘allies’ — will play a key role. 

Regardless of who you are, there are ways to be an ally to others at work—even if you yourself lean on allies for support. Below are six essential tips on how to be a better ally.

1. Identify as an ally

In order to identify as an ally, it is important to first define what an ally is. An ally is a person who “supports, empowers, or stands up for another person or a group of people.” At work, allies support BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and other marginalized colleagues. 

To some, identifying as an ally is the most challenging part of their journey. It forces individuals to recognize and own their own privilege. Remember, even if you identify yourself as an ally, allyship is not just an identity. It is a lifelong commitment to building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals or groups.  

Omoanatse McCarther, Senior Director of Per Scholas Diverse by Design highlights that as an ally, calling in and calling out can be two of the most transformational practices one can implement. This helpful resource from Harvard Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging highlights how. 

2. Cast out assumptions

An ally should celebrate the differences in employees’ backgrounds because it strengthens the entire workforce. Making assumptions about someone’s ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender, etc., is a surefire way to make them feel alienated. 

Whether it’s upfront or discussed with other employees, avoid drawing your own conclusions about coworkers. If you want to learn more about a colleague, ask open questions to discover more about their professional and personal background.

This also applies to making assumptions about whether a person wants these things to be exposed to the rest of the business. For example, if a colleague confides in you about coming out — whether in regard to sexuality, gender, mental illness, or something else — don’t assume they want everyone to know. 

First, ask how you can help. If they want your assistance in spreading the word or coming up with a solution to talk to people about it, they’ll let you know — and you won’t risk compromising trust by spreading their information without permission. 

3. Listen and learn

It’s tempting to impose your own opinions and strategies when someone talks to you about something they’re struggling with — and it might feel like you’re helping out. However, being a good ally means understanding what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. 

Genuinely listening to their perspective not only helps you better understand them but also helps you be a better ally to others. Specifically, active listening helps you understand concerns and build empathy.

Once you’ve done your listening, use what you’ve gathered to support this person going forward. Specifically, you can create a safe space — an environment where they feel more comfortable. 

When creating these safe spaces, make sure all employees know they are welcome. An open, judgment-free environment encourages participation that more and more people may feel comfortable joining. 

Related: How to Foster Psychological Safety in the Workplace, from Interviews to Management 

4. Amplify and advocate

The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging and Culture Team at Per Scholas says, “When advocating for others, be mindful of representing them in a way that aligns with their identities and experiences. Listen to how people refer to themselves and their identities, and honor the language they use. Language is crucial to DEI work, and allies should understand words’ power regarding inclusion and psychologically safe spaces.”

Recognize your privilege as an ally and use that privilege for good. Mentor, advocate, amplify, and provide resources to your peers, particularly those from a less advantaged or diverse background. 

Consider becoming a sponsor, an opportunity to advocate for an individual in an underrepresented group. In doing so, you support their career growth and even boost retention.

Our partner, TopResume, suggests, “You can be an official sponsor through programs within your workplace, or you can serve as an unofficial sponsor/mentor. Once you have identified a need, you can offer your time and guidance to help give other helpful tools and tips for success.” 

5. Know you’re not perfect

Especially if you’re just starting out as an ally, be open about the fact that you don’t know everything. Apologize if and when you misstep. Own up to mistakes and de-center yourself by listening without focusing the conversation around your own views.   

In general, people will appreciate you owning up to it and may even take the opportunity to help you learn. Even after you’ve had successes as an ally (perhaps multiple people have confided in you or thanked you for your support), don’t assume the learning ends there. Continue to absorb knowledge from other allies and maintain an open dialogue about where you have room to continue growing. 

Per Scholas’ Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging and Culture Team is a big fan of Glenn Singleton and his work, Courageous Conversations About Race. The first step in developing racial consciousness is simply acknowledging, “I don’t know what I don’t know.” As an ally, this can evolve into understanding, where one can proclaim, “I know, I know!” By acknowledging our imperfections, we are officially on a path to create change for ourselves and within the environments we share with others.

6. Educate yourself and others 

Understand your education is largely determined by you. As explained by Hubspot’s Chief People Officer, Katie Burke, “Allyship at its core is the act of unlearning and relearning.” Embrace opportunities to know more about diversity, equity, and inclusion and work to empathize with underprivileged groups.

More resources to guide you on your allyship journey:

Start reading our Ally Series: 

  1. Should You Disclose a Disability During Your Job Search? The Complete Guide
  2. How Jobseekers Can Combat Pregnancy Discrimination in the Hiring Process
  3. Anxiety, Fear of Failure? You’re Not Alone: How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
  4. What is Workplace Ageism? (+ 5 Ways to Combat Ageism in the Job Search) 

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