Technically People
Technically People

Episode · 7 months ago

Psychological Safety: The Foundation of Workplace Inclusion


Janine Yancey is Founder and CEO at Emtrain, which provides companies with culture analytics and trainings on bias, discrimination and harassment. Emtrain’s unique model gives companies a way for employees to call out moments in which they feel peers’ behaviors have been disrespectful on a spectrum from red to green, red being toxic and green being respectful and conscious. 

The approach is designed to enable psychologically safe conversations, reduce conflict and effect change.    

“It's hard work,” she says, “but it's not rocket science to build a workplace that is healthy, where people feel like they're valued, where they’re respected, where they belong.”  

Yancey is also an employment law attorney, whose expert testimony has helped shape workplace equity legislation in the state of California.

Episode Highlights:

  • Yancey’s work as an expert witness on workplace equity in the California Senate 
  • How a shared language enables constructive conversations among employees about behavior and matters of DEI
  • Understanding that definitions of respect differ from person to person
  • Fostering allyship among employees  
  • Why psychological safety is key to change-making

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Welcome to technically people, a community conversation by and for workplace futurists brought to you by the tech recruitment platform built in. The podcast features insights from leaders, thinkers and doers on the vanguard building human centered workplaces of the future. Along the way, you'll hear concepts that will stop you in your tracks, the concepts that inspire you to ask yourself, what's the most futureforward way to approach my people leadership? We all know the future of work is a waiting around, so let's get on with the show. Welcome to the show everyone. I'm tiffany Myers, hosting this episode of technically people, where we'll be talking today with Janine Yancy. So Janine is CEO and founder of M train, and M train provides companies with culture analytics as well as trainings on bias, on discrimination and harassment. She also happens to be an employment lawyer who has been really influential in shaping some important, critically important workplace equity legislation. So, just as an example, in two thousand and eighteen, Senator Holly Mitchell proposed a bill to expand harassment training mandates in California and as an expert. Witness Janine influence the passage of that bill and she also successfully made the case that company should be allowed to offer sexual harassment training and not just every year. And that matters a lot according to Janine, and you'll hear her say that successful Di initiatives and trainings and programs are ongoing and consistent. Just to set the stage, I'm trained just updated its workplace culture report for this year for two thousand and twenty one and I wanted to share some findings. Only fifty two percent believe that there are companies have a genuine commitment to inclusion and just one and three people believe their company is doing enough in the way of Di. At the same time, though, the report makes clear that people very clearly understand the value of Dei. Eighty percent believe teams make better decisions when there is employee diversity. So I think now it's a matter of closing the gaps between People's understanding and the earlier staffs from the report that show that progress is slow going. So welcome Janine. Thank you so much for joining us today. Oh thank you, tivity for having me. I'm happy to be here. So I'm really interested in your founding story. Tell me what led you to found M train. You know, I think I found myself in the same situation over and over again. I tell my team quite often that being in the trenches as an employment lawyer, litigator, investigator, if you're like a family therapist, and the sense that you know somebody says something and you already know what the other person with a co workers going to say and you can see the next three or four actions before they actually happen.

It's just because these are patterns that were all part of right and at some point I wanted to get out of the trenches and be able to build a solution, to guide people before they got into this pattern of reaction, action, reaction, and just get us to a more healthy place. HMM. Yeah, and I was thinking, you know, I haven't talked to you about this, but I was thinking to myself. You know, there's very direct three line, I would imagine, from what called you to enter the field of law and what called you to found m train, and that would be sort of the idea of justice, not sort of the ideam justice, but just justice in general. So is that true? Would you say yeah, definitely, and I think that just, you know, creating an environment and situation where people have opportunities consistently, they have equal access to opportunities, that have equal access to be heard and to be valued. I mean, other than your family and your personal relationships, there's usually nothing as important as your work, what you do for a living, and it's just a huge part of our identity and I think that when people are in a workplace where it's not optimalized, its not they. It takes a toll on everyone. Were living in a changing society. Our business models are changing, our society is changing, our demographics are changing. In technology is moving at the speed of technology. Yes, right, and so we're in a time of a lot of turbulence in many ways. Right. And so you look at our workforce, there's typically a couple generations, sometimes three, sometimes four generations working side by side and if you think about their life experiences that informed how they view certain actions. It's such a huge, wide continuum. And then we see in our solution, I mean we actually see the evidence of them, and I've guessed at this for a long time, but we will actually in our solution show a video, see and we ask people to weigh in on it and in a safe, anonymous way. And even within one organization, how people view someone's actions really spans the gammeut. It's really interesting how we you know, respect to you is going to look and feel differently than respect to me. I think business leaders and a lot of people leaders don't understand that maybe as much as they should. We all use the same phrases, but we use we mean different things by them, for sure. Yeah, and and just to clarify for our listeners, you mentioned videos, and videos are an important part of the training that you offer. You'll show various scenes that illustrate or do not illustrate respect and sort of have conversations around that and training around that. So to pick up on your point about having four generations working together, three or four, I know that you have been an addition to all of your other work, looking at Dei through the lens of...

...generational factors and you found some interesting stuff to tell me what's going on there. So you know, again it looks back to our different life experiences and how we view certain behaviors and conduct. And I think the easiest, most brightline example was a video scene and we did as you said. So we use video really as alluring device, because these are the types of topics that you have to see it, you can't just talk about it. And we did a video scene on a situation that was in the news a few years ago, back in two thousand and eighteen, and it was a comedian who met somebody to bar, took her back home, they had sex relations. In the next day she claimed harassment and thereafter all of our society was engaged in this debate is whether or not that really was harassment. Right, yeah, that wasn't a seasons are yes, I remember the debate and the divergent point of views. For sure. Yes, and so we found it timely interesting and so we shot a scene on it and had people way in using what we call our work was color Spectra, rhimsome we'll talk about that a little bit, but you know, just a color code the actions of each of these people in involved in the scene debating it right, and what we're able to see is the younger people thought that the older person's actions were not great toxic, and then vice versa, the older people thought that the younger people's actions were not great and toxic. I'm like wow, if we had not shown that and actually had a channel and a mechanism for people the way in safely anonymously, we would never have surface that. There's a pretty big kind of conflict in our perspectives. HMM. You know, Di is not a destination and for many reasons, and I think in part because of what you're bringing up, it's an ongoing conversation. There's no one and done check box where you can sort of say, all right, the work is done, I'm moving on. And then I think this idea of everyone having a different truth is part of that. So, okay, the color spectrum. I think our listeners are going to find this to be really enlightening, so partly because, you know, to me what stood out is just how powerful it is in making what is invisible visible. So tell us about your model. So the workplace color spectrum is a shared language so that in the moment people could call out someone's comment like say, oh, that was a little orange or that was a little yellow, and it's a quick course correction, without it being at a cereal, without it, you know, creating conflict and being relatively like easy to do, and that is how you know people can get themselves on the right track and going looping back to your comment, Timpany, that we all have our own truth. What's yellow to one person might be at orange to another person, and what's orange to one person might be read to another person. Right, and and that's the invisible part of...

...this that it's hard to navigate around. And if you just call out you know, it's orange or this feels a little yellow to me, then you're politely, safely sharing that with the person you're talking to and they can, course, correct. Yes, so walk us through the actual colors, because I think it does give a sense of the types of conduct around inclusion that leaders should know about. Yes, so, green is what we all aspire it to be. It's our best self and it's how we are when we are bringing our best sells to work, and we certainly share the reality that that it's hard to be green right. Most often we're yellow, and yellow is or just the moment we're head down and work and not really thinking through the feelings or perspectives of any of our colleagues and we're reactive. And we're reactive we tend to be a little negative, right, because being reactive is not all that great. Going Orange is when we're reactive, just like yellow. But all of a sudden we might bring in a reference or comment about someone's protected characteristic, right so, about their age or about their gender, what have you. And so being able to call out when somebody you feel like somebody's orange, is really helpful because typically people just keep that inside, they don't say anything and they might in their heads share that person is really a jerk, but they'll never say anything. So to be able to say, Oh, you know, that was orange is a nice tool just to solve correct. And then when there's a lot of orange and you feel it very consistently all the time, then that's crossed over into red, and red as toxic. The spectrum is about creating psychological safety for both parties and, as you mentioned, it is actually very unhealthy to keep inside the feeling that you've been you've been discriminated against. But in this way it's effective because no one's under attack, no one needs to be defensive and, as you've told me before, it's about clearing the air and now, okay, we can get back to work. So I wanted to see. You know, I'm not talking about lifting your color spectrum wholesale, but I wanted to see if you had advice for leaders who wanted to foster that kind of psychologically safe workplace where people can communicate, hey, that statement was problematic without it seeming like someone is under attack, and and also making sure that the color outer is psychologically safe as well. Yeah, exactly right. So there's a couple things that I think are important for business leaders and all people leaders to remember. So one, this is a competency. We look at this as these are. This is a competency that everyone needs to develop into practice. So just like we practice our relationship skills, are parenting skills? Are, you know,... skills, this is another skill to develop and it takes practice. So putting that thought out into your team or your workforce actually is very supportive and enabling. Like, we don't expect people to be perfect. These are hard issues and we just expect people to care and to be practicing this. So that would be, you know, one one item to this. The another thing to do is to really signal by your own behavior, sort of modeled with all of your people leaders, opening up a door and having conversations where the conversations are always about the behavior, not about the person, and if it's not the color spectrum. Think of some shared language to use so that every one in the organization knows what you mean. Right. So if we just do it in a conclusory what way, like Oh, that's bias or that's not fair, that's, you know, disrespectful, people are going to have different images and understanding of what that means. So there needs to be some kind of a shared understanding of certain core values and what that looks like in the organization. And so I think that combination of a shared language so that won't understands what we're talking about, plus approaching this as a competency to practice and learn. HMM, winning, winning formula. So I wonder if I could ask you a devil's advocate question. Yes, I wanted to just say, well, there probably is a time into place, and maybe it is in the workplace, to say, you know what, you did, something sexist, you know what you did something, you said something racist. What can we do with that? Okay, Devil's advocaty for sure. Noah, no, I'm just thinking through how best to respond to this, because I think it's again, we can look at that. We could look at the behavior on a continuum like we do with the workplace color spectrum. Right. So if there's red behavior, so meaning a person is engaging in such a way that it's about protector characteristics, and it's pretty obvious, and and your face that I think there's two past any person could go down. The first path is to say that's read. I find that read right, and that person, the other person, is going to stop short and probably think about it. Right, if you go down the path that that you're suggesting, which is what most people do, let's just put it out there that most people say you're being a racist, that's sexist, and I can tell you with a hundred, done, hundred, ten percent confidence that person is going to say no, I'm not, you're really sensitive. That's silly and it's going to be a fight and the only one who wins is me as the emplement litigator who's going to make money off that case. Like really, I mean the business doesn't win, the person who's feeling, you know, impact it doesn't win, and the person who's getting accused asn't win.

Is I mean, just put this out there too. I think it's a nuance issue. So I generally ascribe to the belief that most people mean well, they're just they've got blind spots all over the place right, so they don't understand how their actions or comments are going to be received, and so you do have an opportunity to change that person's mindset and certainly their behavior. In a situation where somebody is just a bad ache, and let's just say that happens two percent five percent of the time, then in that situation you don't need to necessarily go directly to that person acting that way. You can go to the HR leader or, you know, the appropriate business leader to say, listen, this person's actions have been blah blah, blah, Blah Blah. Here's how they impact me. And you're really as a steward of this organization, you might want to look into it. The interactions that I think coworkers could solve without help would be yellow and orange issues. MMM, so co workers together. And what about allies? In a situation where there's yellower orange going on, how can leaders foster people's becoming allies in those situations? So that's a great way, and it's just through modeling that behavior and training and educating and showing it here's what it looks like and encouraging everyone, because so much easier to support and help another person then to support and help yourself right right. Respect is something that's deeply felt, but invisible. Inclusion is deeply felt but invisible. So people are then. So your color spectrum is a way to make things visible, but I think also measuring the impact of your training also makes the invisible visible. Tell me how you measure effectiveness? Yeah, so we have put out identified behaviors that we think our core to achieving respect and core to achieving diversity inclusion. And so within our program ums and our solution will show a video scene, as I reference before, and that's a nice device because people kind of get into the moment and they start resonating with that situation and the very next thing that we ask the person to do is apply those concepts to their own colleagues or own team and way in on how those concepts show up in the team. And so we are collecting data from people, pois sentiment data on what we have identified as the core behavior. So behaviors like alley ship, behaviors, like systematic decisionmaking is opposed to shooting from the hip, behaviors like curiosity and valuing differences and then we aggregate them together and create a scorecard for people so you can see where you're strong and where you're weak, and then you can tea up more education. Is that cracked? Education and management action? So well, we will,... know, with every score, suggest other micro lessons or other, you know, learnings, as well as management actions that are designed to bolster that score. You know, both these are muscles to build. Basically, HMM. Yeah, and in in the case that we talked about prior you mentioned a respect indicator being power dynamics. So you would show a video with, say, a manager inviting a younger worker to have a glass of wine and they're not recognizing that they have power over that person. And then you ask the employees who watch that video, do the managers on your team understand the implications of their power? And they can answer, I imagine, on a spectrum, yes, very strongly, they get it, or no, not at all. So that's where that benchmarking would come from. And, YEP, exactly right. And then that helps the business focus their efforts and where, you know, where they need to improve people's skills. Yeah, you know, I want to direct people to to your website into the report that's on your website, because I found that your respect indicators to be, I don't know, a really interesting guide. So one respect indicator is the one that we just talked about, which is power dynamics, but your others are in group out group dynamics, norms and practices, unconscious bias, of course, a big one that we talked about a lot. Social Aptitude and pre existing mindset, and and you measure, score and benchmark those as well. Exactly right. Yes, tell me about social aptitude. Does that have to do with the fact that these are skills you can develop and learn? Yeah, so is your social aptitude? Is your ability to read non verbal communication? Right, some are better at that than other and you can. And so again we will show a scene where somebody needs to read the room and either they're reading it well or not reading it well, and then we'll ask how well do your colleagues, you know, read nonverbal communication? Really well? Not Well at all? Right, and you know some of that. You can help develop people's skills, but on a behavior like that, it's just nice to know as a business leader, where are your pockets of people that are weak on social aptitude, because where their week they're going to have more naturally, a little bit more employed conflict. So I would love to move into our two minute takeaway a segment, and this is sort of your opportunity to I don't know, Jannine, let's say you have to find yourself repeating the same things over and over again and people are not seeming to get it. Or if you want to reiterate something that leaders and companies should really understand or do from our conversation, give us a couple of things to think about as we work to create inclusion and belonging. Yeah, so I think I would just reiterate a couple things. These are competencies to be learned, practiced, developed and for the most part I think the market has been oversimplifying these issues. So you know, it's understanding that these are not easy...

...issues. Creating a safe space, psychologically space, safe space for people to to have the ability to develop those skills, understanding the core behaviors that are are going to get you those schools right. So understand, any like, which behaviors are going to get the better outcomes and diversity clus in and then, lastly, having a share of language. So people are talking couples to apples yeah, so, Janine, I think our listeners may want to talk with you a little bit more to see how they can work with you on that. Apples to apples language that am trained provide. So what is a good way for them to reach out to you? I'm big on Linkedin, so anyone could look me up on Linkedin, send me a message gem and see, and then also our website. Just, yeah, connect me, connect with me, I through our website. Invote. I'm trainingcom yeah, and I would also recommend the people download the recent update, the two thousand and twenty one update to the workplace study that I'm trained just. It's full of really interesting, nuanced and information and, as Janine said, the market it oversimplifies these issues and I think this report shows you just how nuance did all is. So thank you, Janine, so much, for your time and for your counsel. I'm sure our listeners will want to reach out. And So, speaking of let our listeners please don't forget to subscribe to technically people if you want to hear more conversations like this. We are on all the major podcast players. Just go to technically peoplecom and you'll find this conversation and many others there. If your feeling generous or if you're loving what you've heard with love, a five star review, because that's the kind of support that can really help a podcast out, or you can just follow us and be part of the conversation on Linkedin. So thanks so much for tuning in today. We will talk to you next week. Built in is a tech recruitment platform that's in constant dialog with leaders about the future of tech. Built in's PODCAST, technically people, expands those conversations to help fellow futurists create and lead exceptional workplaces, environments that inspire in Demand Tech professionals to join your company and thrive. To learn how built in can help your company attract best in class professionals, visit employers dot built incom. You've been listening to technically people, a community conversation about the future of work. If you want to hear more cutting edge ideas about creating humans iner workplaces, subscribe on your favorite podcast player and you'll never miss an episode. And if you're over the moon about what you've heard, we'd be honored if you took the time to give us a five star review. So signing up. Until we meet again, in...

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