This post is for everyone who ticks off any diversity boxes and is trying to find a safe and inclusive workspace. During the past few years, I’ve changed a few jobs and identified which red flags and green lights to look for.
Perform a screening of the company you want to work with
Hiring is a two-way street. Your employers have a detailed screening process, but you need to have one as well. These are my main steps:
- Look for a diversity page
- Look at their about page - are there any women? POC? LGBTQ members?
- What are their values?
- Read reviews on Glassdoor/LinkedIn
These are all simple steps that can speak volumes. I’ve been falsely informed during interviews, and I blame myself for not fact-checking some things beforehand. You need to make sure that the people you will work with have the same values as you do, otherwise, you won’t be as excited about working there.
Check the vibe of the company
Make sure to prepare a list of questions to ask before any interview. Don’t be afraid of asking questions and making sure that the people you will work with are the right match for you. Evaluate your potential manager. Sure, we all need money to survive, but making money is difficult when you don’t work with people you actually want to work with.
- Ask them about their management style. Top to bottom, or flat? How do they organize work? Make sure that the “fast-paced environment” you’re joining isn’t a synonym for “we make people burn out and quit”.
- Make sure you understand why they are hiring for that role. Is it a new position or did someone leave? If someone left, why?
- Discover whether and how they support career growth.
- Mentorship vs Management – what style do they practice? Are you going to have someone who will own your career growth?
- Ask them about their anti-discriminatory practices. How do they handle difficult situations at work?
Can your future manager actually manage you?
This is more of a problem in a smaller company or a startup, but it was one of the biggest problems I’ve experienced. Sometimes, your manager doesn’t really understand your job. Sometimes, hiring is a task they’ve been given by someone else. Sometimes founders themselves want to hire someone to own part of the work they don’t know how to handle. The question is, can you handle them?
- Check whether you’d be comfortable having your interviewer as your manager. Are they really more senior than you? Or did they just land in that position?
- Ask them about the projects and try to figure out what makes your manager happy at that company.
- Try to understand how the collaboration process goes in the team and between multiple teams.
- Check how they’d support your career growth. Do they need a screw or a toolbox? Will they actually encourage your growth or will they try to keep you in the same spot for as long as they can because of their business needs?
If you don’t have a good manager, you’re not going to have a great time at that place.
How to make your existing workplace more inclusive?
I was the first openly queer employee in quite a few companies. Definitely the first Serbian one in 99% of them 🤣. Sometimes the people who hired me didn’t know how to make the job ad or the company stand out more to the LGBTQ+ community. They didn't know how to communicate that they are accepting of people with different backgrounds or cultures. After all, you have to start from somewhere.Sometimes, HR people really need our help and guidance, and I was always eager to help when people approached me. I was involved in making a diversity page for my existing company. They didn’t know what I was looking at during the interview process, but once me and other colleagues spoke up, the management team listened. They also made gender-neutral job ads and improved the tone of voice in future job listings.Here are some ideas on how you can help:
- Start a group that can discuss these issues and raise them with the People team. Offer them your help. Sometimes people aren’t sure what to do when they aren’t a minority member.
- Offer help with making the diversity page.
- Make sure to share women-only job boards and LGBTQ+ boards with the recruitment team.
Let’s make the workplace a better place for all
Finding a safe and inclusive environment at these times may seem like an unlikely chance, but you need to be aware that you bring your full self to the table, so it is crucial to screen the company that is screening you.
If you are already in a good spot, teach the rest of the team how to attract more people who might tick off any diversity boxes. Sometimes we need to be the ones who can signal to others that there are good spots out there.