How to Be an Ally at Work

Ally Series
As the largest AI-driven marketplace for technology talent, we have a responsibility to promote and drive representation, inclusion, and equity in the hiring space. We envision a world where all hiring is equitable, efficient, and transparent. In order to come one step closer to this world, we are launching our Ally Series. The Ally Series is built on the foundation of providing both job-seekers and employers with the resources and valuable information that addresses DEI in the hiring space.

In a world of increasing opportunity, economic mobility, and openness, companies are learning that inclusivity and diversity are not only good for employees—but also for business. 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:

Identify as an ally
In order to identify as an ally, it is important to first define what an ally is — an ally is any person who supports, empowers, or stands up for another person or a group of people. In the workplace, allies support BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and other marginalized employees, colleagues, and friends. To some individuals, identifying as an ally can be the most challenging part of their journey, since identifying as an ally can cause individuals to recognize and own their own privilege. Remember, even if you identify yourself as an ally, allyship is not just an identity but rather a lifelong commitment to building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals or groups.  

Cast out assumptions
An ally should celebrate the differences in employees’ backgrounds because it makes the whole workforce stronger. Making assumptions about someone’s ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender, etc., is a surefire way to make them feel alienated. Whether it’s to someone’s face or to other employees, avoid drawing your own conclusions about coworkers. If you want to learn more about a colleague, ask open questions to learn 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 with regards to sexuality, gender, a 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. 

Listen and learn
It can be 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 is understanding that what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. By genuinely listening to their perspective can not only help you to better understand them but also can help in making you be a better ally to others. Specifically, being an active listener shows empathy and helps an ally better understand the concerns of people with different backgrounds.

Once you’ve done your listening, use those learnings 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. Encourage participation by setting an open, nonjudgmental tone — if those involved can practice active listening and avoid getting defensive or guilt-tripping others, more people may feel comfortable enough to join in

Amplify and advocate
Recognize your privilege as an ally and use that privilege for good. Mentor, advocate, amplify, and provide resources to your peers, particularly one from a less advantaged or diverse background. Consider becoming a sponsor and champion someone from an underrepresented community to support career growth and increase company 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.” 

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—and apologize if and when you misstep. Be willing to own your mistakes and de-center yourself. 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 some successes as an ally (perhaps multiple people have confided in you or thanked you for your support), don’t assume you’re done learning; Continue to learn from other allies, as well as keeping an open conversation about where you have room to continue learning. 

Educate yourself and others 
As an ally, understand that your education is up to you and no one else. As Katie Burke says in her Inc article “3 Things You Can Do Now to Take Action as an Ally in the Workplace,” Allyship at its core is the act of unlearning and relearning. Continue to learn about diversity, equity, and inclusion and try to empathize with underprivileged groups more.

Below you’ll find some resources that will help you on your journey of becoming an ally.