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Removing Classism from your Workplace: Building an Employee-Centric Workplace with Better Communication

Many companies today are making strides to improve the diversity of their teams and their treatment of race and sex in the workplace, yet very few have intentionally addressed classism.

By: Tal Valler, Director of Global Marketing

Many companies today are making strides to improve the diversity of their teams and their treatment of race and sex in the workplace, yet very few have intentionally addressed classism. 

By classism, we don’t mean socio-economic status, we mean the perception in the organization that there is a class of managers and a class of workers and that the two should be treated and communicated with differently.

An embedded classism mentality is often a blindspot that impedes the flow of communication, alignment between teams, and eventually the ability of the company to execute on its strategy and achieve its desired business results.

As the world approaches May 1st, International Workers’ Day, a daylong celebration of working classes and laborers across the globe, the time has never been better to audit your own workplace and ensure you have taken measures to ensure it is classism free. And the 1st thing to do, is get rid of incorrect assumptions.

#1 – You Don’t Need to Know

Having any assumptive notions within your communication is sure to alienate subsets of your employees and become a blocker for information sharing. Assumptions can be made about class, status, education, or intelligence, and as a result, on what employees should or should not know or what they will care about. As explained in the Harvard Business Review, classism is alive when employees begin feeling “disadvantaged by lack of knowledge about the ‘rules of the game’ in the team or organization”.  An example is keeping certain employees out of the loop on why a certain activity is done, or why something is measured, by assuming this is either not important for them or that they will just not get it.

Companies, in order to prosper, need to put employees at the center of success—so communication and alignment around business goals and strategy are critical. Managers should never assume employees don’t need to know the company goals and that things are done in a certain way for a reason. In reality, however, employees often don’t get to see the whole picture so they get disengaged and become order takers. This is how a class mentality in your organization can create a negative workplace experience and culture, so you need to make sure you’re trying to be transparent and communicative.

#2 – The Curse of Knowledge

Oftentimes, classism due to knowledge gaps does not come out of malice or condescension. It comes from assumptions on what employees know and don’t know. 

Don’t assume employees know about the company goals and strategy if you’ve never explicitly told them about it – or if you’ve told them about it but never verified they understood it.

On the same topic, not all employees are on the same channels at the same time. Management might be constantly checking their emails but frontline service reps, for example, might only be looking at their agent dashboard. Team leaders might be on the company-wide Teams or Slack channel but regional employees might be mainly communicating on WhatsApp. 

So consider a cross-channel approach, and ensure that messages are received and acknowledged. Create multiple channels for feedback submission, encourage team members to communicate on the same channels often, and be proactive in better understanding the employee experience.

#3 – They Know You Care

Assuming certain employees are just doing a job and not giving them opportunities and a path to a career is a surefire way to create classism. 

With the right tools, training, and means of engagement, your employee today can be the leaders of your organization tomorrow. To avoid a class mentality, it’s a company’s duty to ensure development and training programs are available to all employees.

Engaged employees means better business and to be engaged, employees need to feel they have a development path and that they have been trained to be successful. Oh, and going back to that curse of knowledge concept, you need to show employees what their career path could be and not just assume they know it. Show them what they need to do to get to the next level, show them where they’re at, and give them recognition when they advance and take the next step.

Additionally, and this may often be deprioritized, employees need to have fun and feel as though they are part of a team. Regardless of class, all employees want to feel valued and that their work comes with a sense of purpose. Celebrate employee successes, highlight wins, visualize progress, and reward performance for everyone–not just your top performers – always.

In Conclusion…

The frictionless flow of information is critical for a class free work environment. It’s not just good behavior, it’s good business.

To keep all employees informed, engaged, focused, and aligned, you must always remember to avoid assumptions on:

  • Who needs to know what
  • Who knows what
  • Who can do what and how they feel about it 

On this year’s International Workers’ Day, audit your own communication strategy. Do gaps exist where classism could trickle in? Where do you currently see assumptions manifesting in your communication and information sharing? And do you engage your employees equally and give them opportunities for growth and appreciation?

Unfortunately, COVID-19 and the resulting hybrid, remote work-life integration the crisis created exacerbates classism in many workplaces. Clicks are classes more easily formed when employees only meet with their inner circles. Ensure your organization is following the best practices in managing employees remotely via the Alone, Together 2.0 ebook—a free download available here.

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