How to Practice Allyship in the Workplace

Published: May 06, 2022
Modified: Apr 09, 2024


Everyone needs allies—in their personal life, along their career path, and in the workplace. More than a friend or mentor, an ally is someone who’s committed to finding common ground with coworkers, speaking out or taking action when discrimination occurs, and supporting, advocating for, and championing others. An organization that fosters allyship can make significant strides toward achieving a diverse and inclusive culture where people of all races, ethnicities, genders, ages, creeds, and sexual orientations can feel truly welcome and valued for their contributions. Unfortunately, not every workplace provides formal allyship training.    

Here's the good news: You don’t have to sit back and wait for your company to teach you how to practice allyship. What’s more, practicing allyship isn’t reserved for C-suite executives or HR directors. Managers, team members, and individual contributors at every level can develop the skills and, most importantly, the awareness to become an ally to all kinds of people at work and, in turn, an asset to the entire organization.
But if you wish to become an ally in the workplace, where do you start? First and foremost, you need to educate yourself to better understand how to find common ground with people who do not look or sound like you, and who might also think, behave, dress, worship, or love in ways that are different from you. To truly open your mind to learning about diverse coworkers, you must be prepared to acknowledge your own biases—and then work to overcome those ingrained assumptions by changing your perspective and habits of talking about people. 
One way to find common ground with different people is through language. The language we use can unite us or divide us. To become an ally, make a conscious effort to change any divisive language. Avoid the use of the words “all/them/they” when referring to certain groups of people. Instead, think in terms of “some” and “we.” By using the word “some,” you’ll break down stereotypes. And when you use “we,” you emphasize a sense of shared purpose and also make yourself accountable for the results or consequences.  
Changing how you think and speak about coworkers across the spectrum of individual differences is at the foundation of allyship. But allies must also be prepared to back their thoughts and words with action. The experts at American Management Association (AMA) emphasize three key strategies for becoming a vigilant, committed ally in the workplace:  
1. Assess the situation. If you witness something that appears to violate principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion, ask yourself:
What do I see?
What can I identify as fair vs. unfair?
Is there an opportunity for development?
Are other people observing this? 
What is the potential impact of organizational politics?
2. Evaluate your position. Take some time to seriously consider:  
How can I influence this situation?
What is my perspective on the situation? 
What’s the position of the person I wish to support?
Who can I talk to about this?
3. Act . Once you’re clear on the situation and your position, it’s time for action. But before you forge ahead, stop, think, and determine:
What actions can I take?
What actions should I avoid?
When is the most appropriate time to act?
Who will be affected by my actions and how?
Being an ally isn’t always easy. There’s much to learn—and unlearn—and you’re bound to make mistakes. Yet, with the right knowledge, a genuine commitment, heightened awareness, and, last but not least, practice, you can excel at allyship to help create a more diverse and inclusive workplace for the benefit of everyone. 

About AMA
American Management Association (AMA) is globally recognized as a leader in professional development. For nearly 100 years, it has helped millions of people bring about positive change in their performance in order to improve results. AMA’s learn-by-doing instructor-led methods, extensive content, and flexible learning formats are proven effective—and constantly evolve to meet the changing needs of individuals and organizations. To learn more, visit