The author of a recent HBR article uses the term woke-washing – companies that have advertised their commitment to, and support of, racial justice without taking any action or changing racial injustices within their own organizations. In her words, woke-washing “…won’t cut it… And in the current U.S. social climate, employees are becoming more empowered to call out their company’s hypocrisy.”
The author advises that, fostering organizational justice requires a firm commitment at all levels within the organization. The author lists several steps, including prioritizing the psychological safety of employees. “This must include ongoing initiatives such as robust counseling and support options, as well as a corporate willingness to remain open and attuned to the voices, needs, and challenges of employees.”
We recently posted a blog on ‘code switching’ that manifests in organizations when employees do not feel it is safe to be their authentic selves. They perceive the need for, “…adjusting their speech, appearance, and behaviors to optimize the comfort of others with the hopes of receiving fair treatment, quality service, and opportunities.” No one should feel they must ‘code-switch’ to be accepted. It’s an example and sad result of ‘woke-washing’ and the lack of psychological safety.
The well-being consequences are drastic when employees can’t be their authentic selves at work. According to the authors, code-switching leads to feelings of burnout, depletion in cognitive resources, and relational hostility.
Fearing being our authentic selves is not acceptable, whether based on race, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Leadership qualities must be cultivated to foster psychological safety. Such qualities include being open, transparent, and respectful; leading with integrity, authenticity, and humility; and by cultivating inclusivity and welcoming diversity
It’s time to end systemic injustices and inequalities, including in the workplace so that everyone can show-up as their authentic self. Foster emotional, social, and psychologically safe and well organizations.