As a supervisor, your leadership is important to creating an inclusive work environment and supporting staff in their endeavors to engage in campus and community diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Here are a few tips and resources to get you started.
An inclusive workplace culture requires cultural competency at all levels. It is important for supervisors to participate in professional development opportunities related to DEI not only to lead by example, but to continue with your own education, be more aware of potential injustices in the workplace, and to be better prepared to work alongside your team to dismantle institutional racism and discriminatory practices within your department. Some opportunities provided through campus departments and organizations include:
Just as important is creating a culture where attending professional development opportunities and DEI focused events is encouraged and supported. KU Policy supports these opportunities, and it is your role as a supervisor to implement that policy and support your staff in their endeavors.
We do realize that providing time for learning can place constraints on the department. However, it should not be a barrier to meeting this goal. Some possible strategies for making sure staff are able to participate in these opportunities include:
- Cross training staff in critical office functions so essential tasks can be completed when staff are away from the workplace.
- Hiring student staff to fill in at service desks or to perform routine tasks when fulltime staff are out.
- Bring training opportunities to the office. While resources for trainings are limited on campus, there may be opportunities to incorporate education into regular staff meetings and other office functions.
Supervisors can encourage their staff to engage around DEI issues by setting specific goals in the performance management system. This might include:
- Assigning training opportunities like those listed above through the My Learning module
- Setting DEI-specific professional development goals
- Setting personal performance goals focused on your unit's DEI plan, other DEI initiatives in the workplace, or the individual's role within your organization
- Incorporating a DEI statement in each employee's position description to set goals throughout the year and incorporate into annual performance evaluations. Ohio University Student Affairs has a helpful resource on including social justice in job descriptions.
In addition to providing this guidance for your employees, work with your supervisor to make sure these elements are included in your own learning plan and annual performance evaluation.
The University of Kansas is a Predominantly White Institution, meaning our systems are designed by and for people who identify as white, and they demand that those who are not white assimilate to meet the measures of success for those systems. Whether we are conscious of it or not, people with marginalized identities experience discrimination and violence due to the systemic racism built into our office culture, practices and policies. It does no good to promote cultural competency training and implement practices to hire diversity if we are not addressing the systems that prevent us from establishing a truly inclusive work environment.
It is therefore essential to seek a deeper understanding of what systemic racism looks like in the work environment and how that impacts office culture, practices, policies and social norms, then work to tear down the systems and structures that support racism and white dominant culture. A few places you can start include:
- Updating language on your departmental website and public documents
- Reviewing internal policies and documents for language and processes that are based in white dominant thinking
- Evaluate social norms and customs in the workplace, and identify alternatives that are inclusive
- Establishing meaningful goals and action steps for continued improvement
If you'd like to learn more about improving inclusivity in the workplace, Part 2 of the Unpacking Whiteness in the Workplace series focuses on the institution and helps participants identify questions they need to ask to better understand how systemic racism impacts their workplace, assess current conditions, outline changes that they want to make as a department, determine real and perceived barriers to change, and develop plans to work around those barriers so departments can start dismantling systemic racism and creating social change in the workplace.
The physical environmental also sets a tone for an inclusive workplace culture.
- Share information about gender inclusive restrooms, lactation rooms and reflection spaces on campus. If these facilities do not exist in your building, explore the possibility of having facilities added by submitting a service request to initiate an investigation.
- Make sure offices and common spaces are arranged to be inclusive of students, staff, faculty and visitors with disabilities. Consider how you can implement universal design principles in your department and learn more about employee accommodations, ADA compliance, and campus resources from the ADA Resource Center for Equity & Accessibility.
Campus and Community Resources
There are a range of support and educational resources available on campus and in the community. Encourage staff to explore relevant organizations and materials:
- KU Office of Diversity & Equity: Resources for Faculty and Staff
- Faculty and Staff Councils
- Office of Multicultural Affairs
- Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity: Programs and Services
- Multicultural Student Organizations
- Lawrence 101: A list of resources created by the student, staff, and faculty at KU
- Additional resources
If you have suggestions for additional strategies or resources to share to help supervisors support their staff and create a more inclusive work environment, please contact Jeff Severin, co-chair for the Diversity & Inclusion Committee at email@example.com.