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  • Awatif Yahya

Becoming an Upstander Instead of a Bystander


Part of a leader’s role is to speak up for their people and advocate for their best interests. Good leaders do not stand at the peripherals. They are not afraid to voice out against injustice or controversial topics. They put themselves out there for what’s right, even at the risk of it backfiring on them. In other words, good leaders are upstanders rather than bystanders.


Leaders show advocacy for their people by taking appropriate action when they see or hear something that contradicts their principles. Through their actions, leaders educate those around them on acceptable and expected conduct.


There are many opportunities for leaders to become upstanders. Below are examples of five areas where they can make great impact:


1. Unethical Conduct


There is a fine-line between illegal and unethical conduct, and the line might be blurry for some. Just because a certain conduct does not break the law of the land does not mean it is the right thing to do. A leader should be absolutely clear on what constitutes ethical conduct and ensure all employees live by ethical values, inside and outside the organization.


Awe Horizons LLC offers a Business Ethics program that discusses ethical business conduct in detail. For the purpose of this blog, the easiest way to check if a behavior is ethical is to ask yourself a simple question: “if this conduct became public, would I feel good about it?”. If the answer is negative, then chances are the conduct is unethical.


2. Harassment


Harassment, besides being illegal and immoral, is a huge business liability. It impacts the reputation and financial health of an organization for years to come. If harassment is not dealt with promptly and correctly, it can escalate to assault: the ultimate threat. Therefore, and rightfully so, many leaders are taking great measures to prevent harassment in all its forms.


Most States mandate anti-harassment training for companies at regular intervals. Awe Horizons LLC offers both Sexual and Racial Harassment Detection and Prevention programs. Please reach out to learn more about our programs.


3. Bullying


Bullies do not master their behavior in one day. They practice and repeat the behavior multiple times, pushing a little harder each time, until they become experts of manipulation. Often bullies are aware of what they are doing. But there are a few who might not know they are engaging in a bullying behavior.


As a leader, it is upon you to detect early signs of bullying and apprehend the bully. Make sure to optimize opportunities to educate people on what is acceptable behavior in your organization. We cover bullying in our Harassment Detection and Prevention programs discussed above.


4. Microaggression


Microaggressions are comments, facial expressions and small gestures that come across as harmless, sometimes even complimentary, but have a very harmful impact. They create a hostile environment, hurtful feelings and cause bad relationships.


If a leader hears, sees or becomes aware of a microaggression, they need to counter the behavior with a microaffirmation. By doing so, a leader demonstrates proper behavior and educates others on what is expected.


We cover microaggressions and microaffirmations together with examples in our Diversity, Inclusion and Equity program.


5. Inequity


It is a leader’s responsibility to ensure every employee within the organization is given the right tools to succeed and is compensated accordingly for their efforts. Equity is different from equality. Giving someone the same tool, the same career path or the same reward does not yield equity.


The closer the leader is to their people, the more equity they would be able to create. We cover equity in our Diversity, Inclusion and Equity program.


Employees should have full trust that their leader has their backs. Only then you know the leader is an upstander.

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