AB Thinks  →  24th September 2020

Cross cultural comms

AB Thinks

The Internal Comms Podcast is now in its fourth season – and to kick it off Katie sat down with Tasneem Chopra for some honest and open conversation.

The self-styled “professional disruptor” helps businesses address the important issues of diversity and inclusion within their workforce. As a cross-cultural consultant, and champion for social justice, she helps leaders identify where social problems in their business may lie, and crucially, how to solve them.

In this episode she talks passionately, openly and with great experience about “shaking things up” and how we can all make our workplaces – and wider world – a safer, fairer place for us all to enjoy.

Here are our top takeaways:

#1 Reflect the people you serve
“Especially post George Floyd protests that we’ve seen unfold in the US, we’re past the point of saying, ‘well, let’s do implicit bias training’, or we’re past the delicacies of that conversation.

“And it really is going to be about the hard issues and saying it’s not enough to be against racism, it’s important to be anti-racist. And that means sitting with your comfort, sitting with your privilege and inverting it, saying, ‘well, if you hold on to that, what’s the cost? What does that mean for everybody else? What does that mean for the way you recruit, the way you hire and questioning the principles and the practices you’re so ingrained and so used to doing?’

“One of those really simple mantras I would start off with is, if you don’t look like the community you serve ask yourself why. And what happens if you don’t change the metrics to get to that point – you can’t be what you can’t see. If young people entering an organisation don’t see themselves represented in leadership or middle management, for example, it doesn’t even become aspirational. You just become what’s the point? Why bother?”

#2 Listen to those affected
“I think we’ve learned the long lesson. Or after a long time, I think the lesson we’ve learned is in order to best understand the attributes, experiences of a minority community, you need to hear from them. They need to lead their committee, they need to lead the action. And I guess, the strategic orientation of how an organisation goes regarding that issue. To this day you can watch a panel discussion on a current affairs programme discussing migrant communities and the problem with the Africans or the problem with the Muslims, and they’re neither African or Muslim on a panel. The reality is these communities, these diverse communities in the UK, US and Australia have been there for two, three, four generations. They are British, they are American, they are Australian. But somehow they’re continuously othered to the point where they become a problem to be discussed by experts in the field.”

#3 Accept and then address
“How we get to cultural safety is we have to unpack and we have to pay acceptance with our racism, accept that we are. We all, myself included, will hold inherent views about particular groups which are problematic. So sit with it, be uncomfortable with it, learn to unpack it and learn to correct it. And that won’t happen overnight. That is going to take some time and that is going to take some listening as opposed to hashtag and ribbon days and food days. It’s going to take a lot more than that, it’s going to take some conscious learning.”

#4 Ask the difficult questions
“In Australia, we have these people matters surveys, which are an HR staple within an organisation where you record everything from date of birth, and languages spoken, ethnicity, race, religion, whatever. And in some organisations, they’re making an addendum to include experiences of harassment, racism or bullying that you’ve endured, and you can anonymously do that. And that becomes your database. We don’t know what people’s experiences are because we’ve not asked and we’ve not asked because, privacy. But for me it’s not privacy, it’s just comfort. We want to know if people have experienced sexual harassment, we wanted to know that we can fix it. We want to know if people experienced bullying, we want to know if they’ve experienced racism. Because unless we know, how do we respond?” 

#5 Have discussions on their terms
“If you make this assumption that the only way to do it is a certain way, without actually hearing and listening to each individual contributor – on their terms, not yours – you miss out. So, this whole idea I think of being inclusive is as far as possible, to meet people where they’re at in terms of their cultural mindset. And for some, it might mean a different way of approaching an issue.”

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