Jenny Garrett shares practical tips for supporting colleagues in the workplace

Supporting colleagues from ethnically diverse backgrounds in the workplace is not only the right thing to do but is also beneficial for organisations in terms of creativity, innovation, fair treatment, workplace culture, access to markets, and legal compliance.

Administrative professionals are well placed to support and advocate for staff from ethnically diverse backgrounds for several reasons:

You Are Often the First Point of Contact for Employees

Whether it’s for booking a meeting room, arranging travel, or answering general queries, you have frequent contact with employees from diverse backgrounds and can build strong working relationships with them.

You Have a Broad Understanding of the Organisation

Including the different departments, roles and responsibilities, and the organisation’s policies and procedures. This knowledge enables you to provide valuable support to employees from diverse backgrounds who may be unfamiliar with the organisational structure.

You Are a Skilled Communicator

In order to effectively liaise with people from different departments, levels of seniority, and backgrounds, communication skills are essential. This skill is particularly useful when working with employees from diverse backgrounds who may have the organisation’s preferred language as their second language or have different communication styles.

You Can Advocate for Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

You may be involved in organising events, training sessions, and other activities that promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. By advocating for these initiatives, you can help create a more inclusive workplace culture that welcomes and supports staff from diverse backgrounds.

You can play a critical role in supporting staff from ethnically diverse backgrounds in the workplace by building strong relationships, providing knowledge, and advocating for diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Here are my top 6 tips for supporting your team members from ethnically diverse backgrounds:

1. Educate Yourself

Educate yourself on different cultures and customs to better understand and respect your colleagues’ backgrounds. You can do this by:

Reading books and articles on different cultures

Start by reading books and articles on different cultures. This will help you gain a basic understanding of cultural practices, customs, and beliefs in different parts of the world. You could also subscribe to online newsletters or publications that discuss diverse cultures.

Attending cultural events

Attend cultural events and festivals in your community or online. This is a great way to learn about different cultures and their traditions and customs.

Taking online courses

Take online courses on topics related to diversity, cultural intelligence, and effective communication across different cultures. You can find many on LinkedIn or perhaps your organisation’s intranet.

Connecting with individuals from diverse backgrounds

Connect with individuals from diverse backgrounds and listen to their stories. This will help you gain a deeper understanding of their experiences, perspectives, and values. There are many podcasts and YouTube channels with advice and support.

Engaging in cultural training

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) training can help you develop self-awareness of how culture influences your interactions with others, understanding of how to develop and apply CQ in yourself and others, and effectiveness in working with multicultural colleagues and customers. Engaging in cultural training will help you to navigate the workplace and any potential cultural differences.

2. Promote a Culture of Inclusivity

Promote a culture of inclusivity by actively seeking opportunities to include diverse voices in meetings, initiatives, and projects. Some things you can try are:

Identifying areas where inclusivity can be improved

Take a look at current practices and identify areas where more inclusivity is needed. This could be in hiring practices, decision-making processes, or even the language used in meetings.

Being intentional in inviting diverse perspectives

Once you’ve identified areas where more inclusivity is needed, take intentional steps to invite diverse perspectives. This could involve inviting employees from different departments or backgrounds to meetings or projects.

Creating a safe space for dialogue

Make sure that all team members feel safe expressing their opinions and ideas without fear of judgment or reprisal.

Acknowledging diverse perspectives

Inclusivity means more than just inviting diverse voices to participate. It involves acknowledging and valuing these perspectives, even if they differ from your own.

3. Be an Ally to Your Colleagues

Be an ally to your colleagues by raising their concerns and suggestions to management, especially if they relate to diversity and inclusion. Advocating for your colleagues requires a combination of communication skills, empathy, and sincerity. Some steps to raise your concerns are:

Build a relationship with management

Build a close relationship with management, and understand their unique perspectives and challenges. This will give you the advantage of making your voice heard.

Study your organisation’s policies and regulations

Before going to management, familiarise yourself with the company’s policies on diversity and inclusion. Know what is well-established and what may require more attention.

Prepare for the conversation

Plan for your conversation with management by outlining your concerns and suggestions. This should include data and other relevant information that can support your claims.

Use concrete examples

Provide real-life examples of issues that currently impact your colleagues. Share stories that show how different approaches could lead to better results.

Collaborate with colleagues

Work with other administrative professionals or colleagues to collaborate and support you in your efforts in advocating for diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Be respectful

Approach management with a respectful and professional attitude.

Follow up

Keep track of the actions that management takes in response to your feedback. See if new policies are crafted and new initiatives are taken, either in the short or long term.

4. Use Inclusive Language

Use inclusive language and avoid making assumptions or stereotypes based on cultural backgrounds. Use clear, plain language that everyone can understand, providing a glossary of terms and explaining any idioms that you inadvertently use. Some tips are to:

Avoid using gender-specific language

Use gender-neutral terms to avoid bias based on gender, such as using “they” instead of “he” or “she”.

Use respectful and appropriate terminology

Use language that is respectful and appropriate for the person, culture, and situation.

Avoid stereotypes

Avoid stereotyping individuals based on their ethnicity, culture, or background. For example, don’t assume that all people with Asian heritage are good at math or that all who have African heritage are good at sports.

Ask for feedback

Always ask for feedback from individuals from different backgrounds to ensure that your language and communication style is inclusive and respectful.

5. Create Opportunities for Cross-Cultural Exchange

Create opportunities for cross-cultural exchanges and events, such as cultural fairs and celebrations. Some ideas on how you can do this are to:

Set up a cultural committee

Establish a committee made up of representatives from different cultural backgrounds within your organisation. This committee can plan and organize cross-cultural events and activities.

Survey your colleagues

Conduct a survey to gather information about the different cultural backgrounds represented among your colleagues, and also gather ideas for possible cross-cultural events or activities they would like to see.

Partner with community organisations

Partner with local community organisations that represent different cultural backgrounds. They can help you organise events, provide educational materials, and even help you fundraise.

Provide educational resources

Provide books, films, or other resources that highlight different cultures, and make them available in your office or company library.

6. Support Your Colleagues’ Personal and Professional Growth

Support your colleagues’ personal and professional growth by helping them identify mentors, sponsors, or networking opportunities. You can take action by:

Identifying mentors and sponsors

You can use your professional network to identify mentors and sponsors for your colleagues. Reach out to relevant associations and industry groups to connect your colleagues with elderly professionals who can provide guidance and support.

Creating an internal platform or forum

You can create an internal communication platform or forum to help your colleagues network and share experiences. Use the platform to connect colleagues with each other and facilitate collaborative learning and support.

Facilitating training sessions

You can organize training sessions on critical skills that will help your colleagues advance in their careers. These sessions can include training on leadership, public speaking, and other social skills.

Establishing a diversity and inclusion programme

You can collaborate with the HR department to launch a program that focuses on fostering inclusion and diversity in the organisation. This program can include mentorship and sponsorship programs, intercultural training, and networking events.


Remember, change takes extra effort and time, so be patient and persistent in advocating for your colleagues. The role of creating an inclusive workplace where all can thrive is everyone’s responsibility; if everyone takes small steps in the right direction, change will happen.

Jenny Garrett OBE is an award-winning career coach, diversity expert, leadership trainer, speaker and author of Equality vs Equity: Tackling Issues of Race in the Workplace. She designs and delivers leadership programmes to support staff from ethnically ... (Read More)

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