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Support for the Black Lives Matter Movement: Third-Party Intervention Training

This is the fifth post in a 12-part series on how companies can show support for the Black Lives Matter movement by changing company policies and practices. This post focuses on the importance of third-party intervention training for employees and managers so that they have tools and resources to assist them should they witness racist behavior or microaggression in the workplace.

Third-party intervention is when a person who is not on the receiving end of harassing or discriminating behavior, but instead witnesses or serves as a bystander to such behavior and intervenes to stop the behavior. Training employees and managers as to how to respond when they witness inappropriate and racist behavior is key. While many employees may say that they would not tolerate racist comments or behaviors from co-workers, employees often find themselves without the appropriate tools to respond should they find themselves in a situation in which racist conduct or behavior is occurring. This is especially true when such behavior is directed at another person (whether the person is present during the harassing behavior or absent).

Third-party intervention training will force employees to exercise the muscles associated with intervention and may focus on a number of different techniques such as:

  • Direct intervention. If an employee feels safe directly addressing the harassing behavior, the employee can confront the individual and call out the racist behavior in the moments when it is occurring. Ways to do this include, “I find your behavior inappropriate [or hostile, or intimidating]; please stop.” Employees need to be aware of situations in which direct intervention could escalate the situation further or result in physical harm to themselves or others.
  • Distraction intervention. Employees can learn ways to interrupt racist behavior. This is a subtler form of intervention (when compared to direct intervention), but may be helpful if there are safety concerns surrounding direct intervention. Distraction intervention can include physically interrupting the incident by calling one of the involved employees out of the physical space, or by shifting the conversation by asking a question or starting an unrelated conversation.
  • Delegate. If the employee does not feel comfortable, direct them as to the appropriate third party to intervene, such as a human resources team member or, if necessary, a security officer.

In addition to learning more about third-party intervention and ways your organization can benefit from such training, other ways companies can create policies that lead to actual change include:

  • If you don’t already have one, make sure that you have an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy that is easily accessible to employees and applicants (this is the bare minimum of what all employers should be doing, but is also the foundation of the process). Read more about this here.
  • Train employees on anti-discrimination laws, duties, and policies. If you already perform training, great, but consider ways you can make the training more impactful. Read more about this here.
  • Provide implicit bias training to employees. While in the past, there has been concern that acknowledging implicit bias will be detrimental in any future discrimination lawsuit, this is not likely the case. Implicit bias is present in us all and we all need to be aware of the devastating impact it has on the choices we make on a daily basis. Read more about this here.
  • Update your grooming/personal appearance policy to include language that forbids discrimination based on hair style and hair texture.
  • Consider the creation of affinity groups with the purpose of providing a platform/forum for employees to discuss ways in which the company can create a more inclusive and equitable environment.
  • Educate your managers about the differences between diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Review past EEO-1 and Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) information to identify places in which the company could be doing better (even if not required by law).
  • Stop referral-based hiring programs as these continue to perpetuate the hiring of non-diverse candidates.
  • Listen to the experiences of black employees and employees of color.
  • Educate your managers and decision-makers about the BLM movement and the injustices experienced by black employees and employees of color.

Click here to read part four of this series.

Click here to read part six of this series.

Topics: Discrimination, HR Best Practices