Are you ‘woke’ at work?

Last week we talked about what it means to be “woke up at work.” This week I have some reader experiences to share with you.

I woke up at work ProfPoll

Seventeen individuals participated. Their profile includes workers who are women in leadership roles, members of the LGBTQ community, workers of color.

We first define “woke at work” as a person who is consciously and actively attentive to important events and issues, especially issues of racial and social justice, in the workplace.

This includes, but is not limited to, being aware of discriminatory employment practices, microaggressions (subtle bias against women or workers of color), exclusion, and unfair treatment. It is also being aware of practices that promote inclusion, celebrate diversity and provide equity.

Question No. 1: Are you awake at work?

Yes 71%

sometimes 12%

I’m not sure 17%

Those who responded “Not sure” acknowledged that there are times when they may have blind spots that make them “unaware, oblivious, or inattentive.”

One respondent raised concerns that the use of the word “equity” is “code for socialism.” I’ve heard that argument before, and I think it’s an excuse to perpetuate systems (like employment, health care, and education, to name a few) that are inherently biased against workers and people of color.

Question No. 2: What incident, knowledge, or experience led you to respond as you did?

Respondents shared that:

• your business/organization emphasizes inclusion and being sensitive to these injustices, which is tied to your mission and culture
• your company promotes initiatives such as affinity groups, heritage awareness events, training programs
• your company/organization has a DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) officer as part of the executive staff
• learn about these injustices from co-workers who have experienced exclusion or discrimination, in one case, this included their own child; these injustices include words or actions biased against orientation, gender, age, color, ethnicity, disability, etc.
• Participate in company-sponsored training programs, task forces, affinity groups, and empowerment initiatives.
the election of President Donald Trump increased their awareness of these issues
• their own experiences of discrimination have led them to be ‘awakened’
being open and promoting openness has always been part of who they are
hearing the perspectives of others can awaken them from seeing the world only from their own perspective

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Some specific quotes worth noting:

“Sometimes clients would ask for a certain race of women as workers and we would turn down the business.” If I’m interpreting this accurately, this company doesn’t allow clients to dictate what race of people they work with; I assume the client requests to work only with white employees.

“I just keep my head down and work. I would really be happier if I didn’t have communication with anyone.” I assume that this interviewee feels the pain of exclusion or discrimination; If I’m not mistaken, this saddens me. We all lose: the company, the workplace, and the worker who feels the need to isolate himself.

“I am very much in tune with the ways that minorities in the workplace, namely women and the BIPOC population, subtly stay ‘in our place.’ It has made me fight much harder than my white male colleagues to advance my career, and my success has come at a much slower pace despite performing as well or better than theirs.” I’ve heard this too often: I don’t know how people have such strength and stamina not to give up.

Question 3: If you consider yourself awake at work, how have you used your awareness to benefit your workplace?

Respondents shared these ways:

— Personal approaches:
• be present, vulnerable, kind
• share experiences
• Think before speak
• to talk
•adopt an “everyone is equal” perspective
— Meet with colleagues to advance progress
— Respond to concerns such as “we need more representation of X” and then work towards it
— Don’t ignore something said or done that “feels bad”; Look at it carefully and make changes if necessary.
— Teacher approaches:
• create opportunities to ask students about their culture
• teach American history honestly

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Specific quotes worth noting:

“I think WOKE has a negative connotation. I prefer conscious. Are you aware that other cultures perceive this differently? Are you aware that men and women react differently? I understand your preference, but I’m not sure what the negative connotation is. If you’re not awake, you’re asleep, and around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, many are asleep.

“It is very difficult for me to remain silent when I see or hear that others are put down for lack of reasoning or understanding. Diversity, equity and inclusion always create the best environment.” A strong and important reminder that those with power and privilege can make a difference by speaking up! It’s very much a “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” reality!

A reader told me this story, which I paraphrase below: “I will only work for a company that serves all people, including members of the LGBTQ community. I was considering joining a company and during the recruitment process I forgot to make this inquiry known. As we neared the final decision, I asked if they served the LGBTQ community. The reaction I received was surprising: they laughed. And then several senior members of the firm proceeded to tell me about their family members or close friends who are in the LGBT community. The answer was a resounding yes!” YES reader! YAY, your company! It’s simple to “do good” while doing your business.

Next column: Talk to yourself to enter the New Year!

Dr. Santo D. Marabella, The Practical Prof, is Emeritus Professor of Management at Moravian University and hosts the “Office Hours with The Practical Prof…and Friends” podcast. His latest book, “The Lessons of Caring,” is written to inspire and support caregivers (available in paperback and electronic format). Website:; Twitter: @ProfesorPráctico; Facebook: ThePracticalProf.