Navigating today's workspaces

Colour and Ethnicity

Since George Floyd's murder and what has followed, our goal has been to help people in workspaces take part in and possibly even normalise conversations about colour and ethnicity.

We have launched an 8 part Framework as an open resource in the hope that this might have a positive impact on people’s day-to-day reality in workspaces; that people will find it useful and thought-provoking. We want to carry on the conversation, so please contact us with any thoughts, ideas or challenges you have or if you just want to talk about this further.

To access the full resource, please click here

Summary of our suggested 8-part framework

#1 Grasp first that you are neither normal nor neutral, no-one is!


All of us have a cultural inheritance and a lived experience that make us who we are. This is unique to us and it is how we see, experience and understand both the world of work and the wider world.
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#2 Negative emotions surround privilege because fish can't see water

When you break it down, privilege can be expressed very simply: as not having to think about something. The thing you don’t have to think about could be your colour or perhaps your class. It’s difficult for you to see, because it’s part of your normal. Fish don’t see water!
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#3 Find your category, first in the wider world



In workplaces we often encounter colleagues of a different colour or ethnicity. And because employers owe duties of care to all of their people, there are greater obligations on us to behave more considerately towards others and, therefore, to educate ourselves.

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#4 Orient yourself in your workplace; be consciously aware


It’s important to assess the gaps between what the organisation says and what it does and also to understand that you – and everyone else in the organisation - can have impact. The statements, the policies and the codes are the context, but it’s individuals - you - having conversations that actually change culture.
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#5 Find and build your obvious role; have an impact



In the 17 years that we have been talking to people about making their workplace kinder, fairer and more productive, one of the biggest obstacles we have encountered has been apathy: ‘Why’s that my job?’, ‘I’m not paid to do that.’ The sense that leaders are paid to lead not me. Our message is always that you have impact, that you influence that bit of the organisation around you.
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#6 Use our Actor-Receiver-Observer framework to navigate tensions and misunderstandings

Inevitably, once people in workplaces start having more of these conversations about colour and ethnicity, however well-intentioned they are, there will be tensions and misunderstandings. We need to focus on creating more safety in those conversations. At this point it’s useful to introduce the Actor, Receiver, Observer
(A-R-O) tool that we have used at byrne·dean to analyse and make sense of any workplace interaction since we started in 2003. 
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#7 Intent - understand what it is to be wilful; try where you can not to assume negative intent


We do need to focus on intent too in our framework. This is without doubt the area that Fudia and Matt grappled with the longest. Because their lived experience differs.
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#8 To finish, some tips on how to have these conversations



We use a six part framework in our training to provide tips for everyone to use when having conversations on colour and ethnicity. Fudia and Matt analysed carefully whether they could improve this framework in the light of their discussions and this what they came up with:
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This summer is set to see a lifting of lockdown restrictions, including a return of the physical workplace. Re-establishing organisational norms and the logistical practicalities are high on the agenda, of course, but this alone won't create an effectively functioning workplace. Leading people into the 'next normal' requires a human skillset that is tuned into and equipped to deal with emotion.

Join us on 29 April to hear our workplace behaviour experts explore how to approach the future of work. We'll cover:
supporting mental health and wellbeing
leading with EQ for inclusion, engagement and culture
resolving tricky people issues.


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