A few weeks ago the nation was gut-punched by the shooting of nine praying members of AME Church in Charleston. The act was ruled as domestic terror, committed in the name of segregation and hate; the Confederate Flag was worn by the shooter as an expression of this.
The post-civil rights use and acceptance of the Confederate Flag has not been without controversy, but this act seemed to tip the public scales. Walmart and Amazon pulled the flag’s merchandise from their shelves. South Carolina voted to remove the flag from flying on capitol grounds. The majority of the public (including proud southerners like me) recognized the flag as a symbol of disadvantage and alienation of specific people, and for the sake of justice for those people the flag came down.
This prompts an important question for the faith at work practitioner in the modern workplace: who is disadvantaged or alienated in the organization? Are there any “flags” that need to come down?
Most likely these “flags” are not intended to disadvantage certain groups. Rather they are policies or corporate ways of doing things that functionally disadvantage or alienate certain groups for no real business reason.
So how do we find these flags? Here are a few examples to get you thinking:
- Are there team members who are having trouble fitting in or are experiencing cliques?
- Do women on my team have to choose between extended maternity leave and career advancement?
- Are we missing potentially strong team members because their resume does not fit the company’s traditional mold?
- Are there immigrants or English-language learners on my team who could use some help navigating the native social cues and culture?
The point is that we have to be leaders who love our neighbors as ourselves. We have to do the hard work of seeing and experiencing the world through the eyes of our neighbor, particularly if our neighbor is or has been at a disadvantage.
Doing this has an extremely practical benefit – the better you are at cultivating a diverse workplace, the more your company’s product or service will naturally resonate with a complex and diverse world.
But this is centrally a spiritual obligation. Part of what it means to walk with Jesus is to “do justice” (Micah 6:8). We do justice in the workplace when we wield our influence for the advantage of our disadvantaged neighbor. This is a practical way to love others through our leadership in the workplace.
If you want a workplace culture that gets the best out of a diverse set of employees and reflects the justice of the kingdom of God, then look at your own actions and notice how you engage groups of people who might be at a disadvantage. Look for the legacy systems, processes and cultural relics that are inappropriately disadvantaging those groups.
Look for those flags, and take them down.
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