6 Ways Employers ‘Time Theft’ Against Minority Employees

6 Ways Employers ‘Time Theft’ Against Minority Employees

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Have you heard of the expression “time theft”? If so, you can associate it with poor performance and poor work practices by a company’s employees, such as employees who clock in early but only work part of the time. Or employees who extend their lunch break without notifying a manager. The traditional definition of time theft is related to the modern “silent quitting” movement in that it emphasizes bad employee behavior that “steals” company time.

But, have you thought of the myriad ways employers Stealing time from employees – especially those working for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace? Are there ways for employers and others to take time and energy away from employees working for a fairer and more equitable workplace? In this article, we’ll flip the idea of ​​time theft on its head and discuss six ways employees, who spend time working on DEI issues, are often unpaid, overlooked, and undervalued by companies.

1. It is time theft when employees are asked to participate in DEI councils and working groups without compensation.

I’m a big advocate for DEI councils and employee resource groups (ERGs). These are great places where like-minded people can brainstorm together and strategize on ways to address IED issues in the workplace. However, when these councils and groups take hours away from workers each week, employees should be compensated for those hours.

DEI counseling and ERGs are not “extracurricular” activities that employees do for fun away from their desks. It’s a hard-working, business-oriented workforce that drives progress. It is a theft of employees’ time to do the brainstorming, planning and execution work that is beneficial to a company’s DEI plans without being fairly paid or recognized for it.

Participation in boards and groups without appropriate compensation robs employees of time that could otherwise be used for personal needs or to invest in other professional development opportunities.

Related: Stop expecting marginalized groups to lead diversity efforts. It’s time for allies to step in and get to work

2. It’s time theft when employees are constantly working to get buy-in for DEI initiatives outside of working hours.

The amount of labor that employees expend to gain buy-in for DEI initiatives within an organization can be enormous. When it comes to attending DEI councils and ERGs, it takes time and energy to attend pre- and post-work events to engage more people in a DEI strategy or find cross-departmental support. Time theft comes into play when employees must constantly sell, resell, reframe, and invigorate their co-workers and leaders around an initiative that benefits the business.

Employees who are passionate about DEI and want buy-in for their initiatives spend so much time getting it to eat away at their bandwidth to get other parts of their jobs done. They need reliable support from other employees and leadership so that the burden does not fall on the shoulders of a few.

Time spent building buy-in for DEI initiatives should be recognized and compensated. It must be recognized by management as an act that supports the development of the company. All employees, not just those personally affected by DEI, should make the effort to get buy-in to DEI projects.

Related: 7 Ways Leaders Can Improve Their Workplace DEI Strategy

3. It’s time theft when leadership suffers analysis paralysis and keeps employees on their toes without taking action.

After sitting on an unpaid DEI board and then having to race to get people to sign on to an initiative with clear business benefits, some employees can hope by coming to leadership with a big blueprint. Leadership may ideologically appreciate the initiative, but it may take time to figure out how to implement it. Leaders can chain employees and tell them they’re working on it, but the result can be months of inaction and analysis paralysis.

Companies should not rush to implement DEI plans without understanding the financial and logistical elements. However, many leaders are held back by a lack of data and slow progress as they seek more information before taking action. I believe in data, but sometimes waiting for the perfect amount of information, even after a DEI board or ERG has provided plenty of it, can be a time-robbing crutch from employees who have worked hard for an initiative and are waiting for a stock.

If leaders are hearing the same messages calling for action on issues of race, gender, sexual orientation or disability in the workplace, delaying action while others wait for results is stealing time.

Related: Hybrid working could affect your diversity, equity and inclusion goals. Here’s how to prepare for it.

4. It’s time theft when employees from marginalized identities are constantly asked to educate their colleagues.

Constantly calling on employees with marginalized identities to lead discussions or be spokespersons for entire groups is a drain on time and energy.

When co-workers try to be better allies, it forces them to do personal work to learn about the issues. Instead of doing the work on their own, they often rely on those affected to educate them. It can feel exhausting and challenging for some employees to be educators as they face their own challenges in the workplace. Using an employee’s time to answer questions that may be part of their self-study is an inappropriate and problematic request.

Employees and colleagues who do not hold marginalized identities need to educate themselves and reduce the time they spend asking relevant people to support them in their learning. It’s cumbersome, exhausting and harmful for those who need to protect their peace and boundaries at work.

5. It is time theft when employers ask marginalized people to share their “lived experiences” but enlighten those people when it is time to act.

It can be incredibly frustrating for employees with marginalized identities to share their experiences and not be heard or taken seriously. Leaders can ask certain groups to share their lived experiences in hopes of finding an opportunity to create a DCI initiative that supports them. Although it is a good intention, when these people speak up and others discredit them or enlighten them about their experiences, it can seem dismissive and like a waste of time.

When employers seek information from marginalized people, it should be serious and solution-focused. When people share their experiences with trauma, discrimination and social inequality at work, it’s important to believe their stories. When management asks for this information and then lures employees with marginalized identities into conference rooms to discuss, discredit, doubt or deny their experiences is disrespectful and a theft of time.

Related: Here’s how to have the most powerful DEI conversations

6. It is time theft when leadership encourages marginalized people to work harder for advancement opportunities and then neglects them for promotions.

Many marginalized groups are familiar with the expression “you have to work twice as hard to get half of what everyone else has”. This can be absolutely true in the workplace. Many marginalized people who are on the road to promotion may be told by their managers, “if you work harder” or “if you take on this project”, you may be better placed for promotion. Maybe the employee jumps through all the hoops and finishes their job with flying colors, but when it comes time for promotion, they get overlooked while someone who is “into” leadership gets the nod.

As much as DEI practitioners try to level the playing field, we know that promotions and advancements are always bottled up by those who are tight with leadership or represent the stereotypical recipient of promotions.

Too often, people who are part of underrepresented groups are not considered for opportunities despite their hard work, above-average performance, or consistency. It is time theft to convince employees with marginalized identities to devote more time and energy to their work only to find themselves without recognition or reward. Women and people of color are often the first to volunteer to work harder, but too often the last to be promoted.

Final Thoughts

Time theft is a real problem for marginalized people and those who are passionate about DCI work. Creating a more inclusive, diverse and equitable workplace can be considered a “voluntary” or “extracurricular” activity that does not need to be paid. However, organizations must reframe this work as essential to the business and essential for growth and longevity.

Everyone should be involved in defending DCI and promoting its presence in the workplace. This should not rest on the shoulders of a few employees who occupy marginalized identities. If DEI were more integral to an organization’s work, there would be more pressure for self-education, fair compensation, and equal opportunity for advancement.

Time theft occurs when marginalized, neglected, and undervalued groups must bear the brunt of educating, joining, managing, and surviving inequality in the workplace. It is not right for the burden to be borne by them alone without financial compensation or action taken by the leaders. It’s time to invest in DEI, make it an integral part of a company’s values, and honor and give back the time and energy that employees put into implementing their plans and the action.

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