Race Issues

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How does race affect your workplace? In this episode of HBR’s advice podcast, Dear HBR:, cohosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions with the help of Tina Opie, a management professor at Babson College. They talk through what to do when your company’s board is not diverse, promotions favor some people more than others, or you want to have more conversations about race at the office.

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Listen to more episodes and find out how to subscribe on the Dear HBR: page. Email your questions about your workplace dilemmas to Dan and Alison at dearhbr@hbr.org.

From Alison and Dan’s reading list for this episode:

HBR: Diversity and Authenticity by Katherine W. Phillips, Tracy L. Dumas, and Nancy P. Rothbard — “Simply hiring members of a minority group won’t ensure that they feel comfortable or equipped to build the relationships necessary for advancement. And as companies invest in mentorship and sponsorship programs, making these relationships flourish among workers of differing races may require special effort.”

HBR: How Managers Can Promote Healthy Discussions About Race by Kira Hudson Banks — “Many white people may avoid conversations about race out of fear of ‘saying the wrong thing.’ And many people of color in predominantly white companies may avoid these conversations out of fear of being seen as a complainer — or worse. But pretending the elephant in the room isn’t there won’t make it go away.”

HBR: A Question of Color: A Debate on Race in the U.S. Workplace by David A. Thomas and Suzy Wetlaufer — “You can’t underestimate the power of professional networks, because when they are positively focused, you no longer feel alone or isolated. You are connected with people of power in the organization in a way you have never been before. Instead of always feeling like an outsider, you feel as if you belong. You are not alone, and that can be tremendously helpful both personally and professionally.”

HBR: The Costs of Racial “Color Blindness” by Michael I. Norton and Evan Apfelbaum — “Rather than avoiding race, smart companies deal with it head-on—and they recognize that ‘embracing diversity’ means recognizing all races, including the majority one, to avoid showing preference or creating a backlash. For example, Time Warner’s annual diversity summit isn’t just for people of color (or women)—it’s populated by white males, too. Talking about race can feel awkward, but over time more companies will discover that doing so is usually better than pretending it doesn’t exist.”





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