Our Power and Responsibility to Decrease Discrimination at Work


In the news, on LinkedIn, as I talk to clients I’m hearing the statements companies are making in support of promoting diversity and inclusion. I’m heartened by the donations being made, diversity data being made public, and the commitments to learn and do more.

These are great steps; however,  lasting transformation starts with leaders doing our part to change the disparity we create and ignore every day. 

How do we know what we don’t know?

I’d like to introduce you to The Johari Window created by psychologist Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham. It’s a model that describes relationships and understanding of ourselves and others.

On one axis is what others know of us, and on the other axis is what we know of ourselves.

Our goal is to uncover more of ourselves, disclose more to others, and together uncover more of what is unknown to open. 

This process starts with curiosity, education, and compassion.


In the spirit of curiosity, how can we use The Johari Window to help us take responsibility for our part and also empower us to take small actions every day to decrease discrimination, uncover unconscious bias, and increase inclusion?

Change starts with ourselves. Take time to educate yourself on the impact of discrimination and unconscious bias.  The more you know and the more comfortable you are with discomfort, the more capacity and courage you'll have to lead change at work.

Once you've started to discover and educate yourself, be curious about work, the processes you participate in, and the decision made.

What is blind to us? What’s hidden? What don’t we know?

To get started, I suggest looking at key steps in the employee lifecycle or your typical day. For an example, let's look at hiring.

  • Do you post your jobs on websites that are diverse? If you’re only using LinkedIn, how diverse is the customer base that uses it.
  • College recruitment and internships- are you recruiting at colleges that are diverse
  • What about the advertising on your companies website. Is it diverse?
  • Do you have clear job requirements that are agreed upon? Are the requirements the real requirements. Do they favor people of privilege? Are there other ways to test for requirements besides stating a Masters Degree?
  • When you review a resume do you read the name first? Try reading the resume first and assess it against the requirements set. If it was a white male would you treat the resume differently?
  • What candidates may be eliminated by the location of a job and the access to public transportation and the flexibility of schedule? Can a single working mother get her child to school/daycare make it into work and home at the times she needs?

These are initial questions to get your creativity and curiosity flowing. How much more can you discover?

Outside of your responsibilities as a leader, here are other ways to take action at work.

  • Join an employee resource group (ERG) to become an ally. If your work doesn't have ERG's consider starting one.
  • Host conversations with other leaders to be curious about what you can do differently.
  • Ask your manager what your company is doing about bias in the workplace. Volunteer to lead conversations.
  • If your company hosts community outreach and volunteer days, work with communities unlike yours.
  • When signing contracts with vendors and customers. Be curious about their practices. Support companies that are doing work to end discrimination and bias.
  • Challenge decisions that may discriminate, even the small ones. Proactively ask if you're team has considered the impact on diversity and inclusion with the decision being made.
  • If you work with customers, are you getting feedback from a diverse set of customers?
  • Speak up when you hear micro-aggressions and stereotypes that perpetuate discrimination and bias.

Change is possible.


About the Author

Kim-Elisha Proctor is an Executive Coach, teacher, and writer. For over 15 years, she has worked with companies at all stages of growth and understands the complexity of organizations and leadership that is needed for success. Whether one-on-one coaching, with groups or delivering leadership development programs, her passion is the same: to support leaders to enhance their performance, impact, purpose & well-being to create communities they long to belong to.

Kim-ElishaAgency, Create & Navigate Change, Lead Smarter