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October 9, 2023

Transforming employee engagement through inclusivity with Mita Mallick

On this episode of Navigating Forward, Lisa Thee sits down with Mita Mallick, Head of Inclusion, Equity and Impact at Carta and also the author of "Reimagine Inclusion: Debunking 13 Myths to Transform Your Workplace." Also joining Lisa is Melanie Roberson, Director of Organizational Effectiveness at Launch Consulting. The trio discusses how inclusivity issues can impact employee engagement and performance — and how the solution really starts at the kitchen table, not the conference room table. Along the way, Mita shares the 13 myths that she covers in her book, including which one seems to be sparking the most conversation. Complete with personal stories and reflections, it's an enlightening conversation that's sure to make you stop and think about your own workplace, leaders, and coworkers. Find Lisa at https://www.linkedin.com/in/lisathee/
Find Mita at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mita-mallick-2b165822/
Find Melanie at https://www.linkedin.com/in/melanie-roberson-55a0a23/ Learn more about Launch Consulting at https://www.launchconsulting.com/

Transcript

00:00:03:09 - 00:00:46:21

Narrator

Welcome to Navigating Forward, brought to you by Launch Consulting, where we explore the ever-evolving world of technology, data, and the incredible potential for artificial intelligence. Our experts come together with the brightest minds in AI and technology, discovering the stories behind the latest advancements across industries. Our mission: to guide you through the rapidly changing landscape of tech, demystifying complex concepts and showcasing the opportunities that lie ahead. Join us as we uncover what your business needs to do now to prepare for what's coming next. This is Navigating Forward.


00:00:46:23 - 00:01:05:10

Lisa Thee

Hello everyone, and welcome to the Navigating Forward podcast. My name is Lisa Thee and I'll be your host today. Today we have the honor of interviewing Mita Mallick, who is the author of the brand new book dropping, Reimagine Inclusion, and the head of DEI at Carta. Thank you so much for being here with us today, Mita.


00:01:05:13 - 00:01:08:22

Mita Mallick

Thanks both for having me. I'm excited for this conversation.


00:01:08:24 - 00:01:16:20

Lisa Thee

I'd also like to welcome Melanie Roberson, who is our head of Organizational Effectiveness and Change here at Launch Consulting. Welcome to the podcast, Melanie.


00:01:16:21 - 00:01:19:05

Melanie Roberson

Thanks so much for having me, Lisa. Nice to be here.


00:01:19:12 - 00:01:46:01

Lisa Thee

Thank you. So, it is such an exciting topic for me. I'm so passionate about this concept of how do we do more effective employee engagement on the inclusion side of the fence. So having this author and expert here to give us all the lowdown is a really wonderful opportunity. So Mita, for somebody who doesn't know anything about your area of expertise, can you give us a little bit of an overview of what you do day in, day out at Carta?


00:01:46:03 - 00:02:06:12

Mita Mallick

Sure. So, let's just start with what does diversity, equity and inclusion mean? Diversity is really, my quick definition is all the different ways in which I identify. If you follow me on social media or have seen a picture of me or met me in person, you will likely guess correct that I identify as a woman of color. That's a visible dimension of diversity.


00:02:06:14 - 00:02:45:11

Mita Mallick

I'm also a caregiver. I'm a mother. There are other dimensions of my diversity that I might not feel comfortable sharing with you until I get to know you better. Inclusion. Inclusion is all about making sure you feel valued, seen, recognized, heard, you belong in your workplace. And equity is just the acknowledgment that we don't all start from the same starting point. Depending on where our lives have taken us, we have access to different opportunities, whether that's educational, financial, social capital. And so that's what I like to start with, are those basic definitions to ground us, which I think most everybody can on some level relate to those three words.


00:02:45:13 - 00:02:58:13

Lisa Thee

Those are very relatable, and I really loved the emphasis that you're leading with in terms of reimagining inclusion. So, can you help us understand a little bit about what is your why and what inspired you to write this book?


00:02:58:15 - 00:03:22:19

Mita Mallick

I'll start with the origin story. Someone a while ago asked me, what's my Marvel origin story? I'm not a Marvel fan, but I love that idea. Like, what's your origin story? My origin story is I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrant parents. My younger brother and I were raised, born and raised in the U.S. and I was the funny looking, dark-skinned girl with the long, funny looking braid whose parents spoke funny English until it wasn't funny anymore.


00:03:22:22 - 00:03:46:29

Mita Mallick

And I was bullied a lot, both verbally and physically growing up. I didn't feel included in my community in the greater world. And so, Lisa, Melanie, I've been chasing inclusion my entire life, and I talk about that in the opening of Reimagine Inclusion that I never, oof, never occurred to me that the bullies from the classroom and the schoolyards would follow me into corporate America.


00:03:47:04 - 00:04:15:20

Mita Mallick

I just didn't know that would happen. And so, I had been chasing it on behalf of myself. And now I'm chasing it on behalf of as many people as possible because we always start with this idea of inclusion. Even when you ask me, what do you do? I started with inclusion, but we don't talk enough about exclusion. And no matter who you are or where you've grown up or what you do today, you likely have a childhood memory or an adult memory or a memory of something that happened yesterday where you felt excluded, right?


00:04:15:21 - 00:05:00:22

Mita Mallick

You didn't feel like you belonged. Whether it was, I talk about in the book the kickball game. God, I hated kickball growing up. I still do, school kickball, always getting picked last. Or it is, gosh, I thought we were friends, Lisa. And you invited everybody but me to your birthday party. And this is like at the bar downtown because Melanie posted pics in social media or it's an invite to a work meeting and you thought, well, gosh, I'm leading a critical part of this work and I can't believe I wasn't asked to have a seat at this table and that my boss's boss is presenting this work. So, I think anyone listening can pull up a memory of feeling excluded. And gosh, it's a horrible feeling. And we really don't want anyone to ever feel that way. We really don't.


00:05:00:27 - 00:05:13:00

Lisa Thee

I love that concept of inclusion of not only being invited to have a seat at the table but having the opportunity to change the conversation. So, what emerging trends are you seeing in your field that you think we should be paying more attention?


00:05:13:01 - 00:05:38:13

Mita Mallick

I can't believe more people aren’t talking about this. I think they are. Some of us are just tired of screaming about it, which is what has happened to all the women in the workplace. Where are they post-pandemic? The caregiving crisis, the childcare crisis in the U.S. is real. It is about to break again. If you are a parent and would like to also work outside the home.


00:05:38:15 - 00:06:14:08

Mita Mallick

Finding reliable and affordable childcare is, wow, it's just embarrassing that as a country and as a society, we haven't figured out how to support parents. Not only the role of government, but as we know when government fails, what is the role of businesses to step up? I think that's one big theme that's emerging for me. I think the second theme, which is, as we get to employee engagement, the pendulum swinging five days back for work in the office or fully remote and sort of back and forth on that.


00:06:14:08 - 00:06:37:14

Mita Mallick

And what happens when a certain group of individuals want to be in the office for whatever reason it is, and there are other individuals as I talk about and reimagine inclusion, predominantly not all, but many from historically marginalized groups who feel more comfortable having a schedule where they're allowed to work from home for many different reasons.


00:06:37:16 - 00:06:56:02

Mita Mallick

What happens then as we're trying to get the best out of that workforce and evaluate that workforce on performance? What happens with proximity bias? What happens with who we decide to give opportunities to, right, because we see them less frequently?


00:06:56:08 - 00:07:04:19

Lisa Thee

Melanie, what are you seeing as you’re consulting in the world out with multiple companies in these themes? Would love to hear your point of view.


00:07:04:19 - 00:07:43:24

Melanie Roberson

Yeah, I was just thinking the same thing in terms of just, you know, what the workforce looks like today. I was thinking about your story Mita and this idea of inclusion and what does inclusion look like in employee engagement? And you know, one of the questions that I had prepared for you is, you know, when you talk about the tangible benefits of DE&I and you think about all of the reasons why it is useful in organizations, you know, you think about the tangible benefits it has on us as women or as people of color, but there really are tangible benefits for organizations, right.


00:07:43:24 - 00:08:12:12

Melanie Roberson

In terms of, you know, productivity and performance and, you know, organizations being able to really create untoxic environments and environments that help them thrive. And I think that is a powerful story that's worth telling, right? Because I think a lot of people think, you know, this conversation about DEI is one-sided and people don't understand that it is about this idea that we can be a better people.


00:08:12:19 - 00:08:14:08

Lisa Thee

More profitable company.


00:08:14:08 - 00:08:32:15

Mita Mallick

Absolutely. I think the two things I would add to that is the business case, which many people get tired of hearing about. But I'm going to say it again and Melanie, you just alluded to it. If we're sitting in the U.S. right now, over 40% of individuals in the U.S. identify as nonwhite. That number will continue to change in the next few years.


00:08:32:18 - 00:08:58:12

Mita Mallick

Procter and Gamble, as I included in Reimagine Inclusion, tells us there's over $5 trillion of spending power with the multicultural consumer. That doesn't include individuals with disabilities, veterans, LGBTQ+ community, and all the different dimensions of diversity. And so, inclusion is a driver of the business. How are you serving those communities authentically, with purpose, with products and services, delighting them, surprising them, enhancing the quality of their life.


00:08:58:12 - 00:09:38:29

Mita Mallick

And then the second piece, Melanie, talking about productivity, I'll just make this real personal. If I have to spend the majority of my time at work wondering if I'm going to be talked over or if I'm going to be misnamed, renamed, or if people are going to ask how I got rid of my accent, why I speak English so well, comments about my lunch smelling funny. I could go on and on and on. And so, what happens to me as an individual? I am only working at 50% of my capacity because the other 50% of my brainpower and my time is being spent coming in with armor that I'm wearing, trying to find ways to cope and imagine if I feel like I belong and I feel included.


00:09:39:06 - 00:10:05:09

Mita Mallick

And I know not only did I get invited to the room, I have a seat at the table and my voice matters. I'm reaching the maximum potential I can for myself and the company. And so that is really the clear business case on two fronts. Why anyone leading teams today and listening to this conversation should really be like, oh my gosh, yes, this is a driver of the business and a competitive advantage.


00:10:05:11 - 00:10:30:19

Melanie Roberson

Right. And you know, just to add to that, the competitive advantage is the psychological safety of everyone in a room to be able to share their free ideas, right. And we know that that is where the world's headed. Your currency is your idea. Your currency is your ability to imagine and create. And if you are not bringing those to the table, then your colleagues can't riff off of those ideas and you can’t keep creating things.


00:10:30:19 - 00:10:31:18

Mita Mallick

Absolutely.


00:10:31:21 - 00:10:50:26

Melanie Roberson

And so, if those ideas aren't on the table, then the new things can't be created. And that is a deficit. That's a gap that's being created. And so that's where the miss is happening. And that's a benefit of DE&I and all of these ways in which we need to make these environments more inclusive.


00:10:50:28 - 00:11:22:01

Lisa Thee

I would love to expand a little bit with both of your points of view on this pendulum back to presenteeism in the workplace. I think that we found that a lot of these communities that were speaking out that are still striving towards more equitable inclusion have benefited from some of these more remote or hybrid work environments. What are your impressions about why we're trending back this direction and what are some data that leaders should be considering as they're evaluating their options?


00:11:22:05 - 00:11:50:26

Mita Mallick

I'm smiling as you ask that question because I read something online. God, don't believe everything you read online, kids. The conspiracy theory about the real estate industry, right? What happens in our country if all of these massive buildings that were built for work are at 50% occupancy or less? Really interesting perspective to think about. And so, who is in power and decision and really driving the conversation of being back five full days a week.


00:11:50:26 - 00:12:09:11

Mita Mallick

Listen, I think most people you talk to want to meet and collaborate in person. That's not what this conversation’s about. It goes back to control. It goes back to I can't see you. I don't know what you're doing. You know, I was raised in a corporate America, and I'm embarrassed to admit this because this is something I chased for a while.


00:12:09:17 - 00:12:35:20

Mita Mallick

I wanted an office where the door closed, a corner office. Especially if you're in New York City. Oh, wow. You get views then, right? And then you get to look out at everybody else. And then it's also like, how many boxes are under you on the org chart and oh gosh, I actually get an iPhone now. My company will pay for it because I'm at a certain level, I get a special company iPhone. All these things that you're like, wow, that's not what leadership's about, but that's what I was trained.


00:12:35:20 - 00:12:52:19

Mita Mallick

And so, but that is also the remnants of an old school type of leadership where you're like, well, but then I don't get any of that. If I can't actually see people and I can't run out of my office and yell at Lisa, go do this right now because I want you to. And Lisa's like running around to get it done.


00:12:52:21 - 00:13:02:23

Lisa Thee

Melanie for kind of for companies that are looking to enhance an employee experience, how are you seeing some of these trends impacting that and what are some of our recommendations?


00:13:02:23 - 00:13:25:10

Melanie Roberson

To expand on Mita’s point, I think it's an antiquated way of thinking, right? That idea that work can't be done unless it is in a certain place happening during a certain time. And I think that that's the new way of thinking that, you know, I think a lot of generations, these younger generations are really teaching us is that it can happen anywhere.


00:13:25:13 - 00:14:13:07

Melanie Roberson

And they are, you know, sharing that if it can't happen anywhere, then they don't want to work for your organization. And that is going to be the trend. It’s going to be we are going to go and work for those places where, you know, we do have the flexibility to, you know, show up as our true selves and be creative at the times and places where we want to be creative, and when we want to be creative and be able to bring our true selves to work and not think of ourselves in this box. I create in this time, in this place, and then I go and do this thing and do it over here during this time in this place. And so, this idea of compartmentalization of our lives is really kind of being challenged in that sense.


00:14:13:07 - 00:14:45:23

Melanie Roberson

And I think what we are seeing in the employee engagement experience is, you know, getting back to some of the things that you talk about in your book, Mita is, we are really looking into ourselves and asking leaders to look at people holistically and to say, you have humans working for you. What do you need to do to motivate and inspire and encourage those humans to think about whatever it is that you, you know, are doing for your business to be able to succeed.


00:14:45:25 - 00:15:15:26

Melanie Roberson

Right? And it's not you need them to show up at this time and, you know, do this many hours of something. You need them to be creative. You needed them to be problem solvers. You need them to be, you know, innovative. And that can happen in a multitude of ways. And leaders need to expand their thinking on that, and they need to show up differently and lead in different ways so that they can inspire their organizations to do that.


00:15:15:29 - 00:15:50:20

Melanie Roberson

So that's what we're encouraging from our leadership teams. And, you know, I think one of the things that's really interesting about your myths, Mita, is, you know, it's a lot of leadership work and it's a lot of leadership work looking within themselves. And so, I'm very curious with some of the strategies that you are encouraging leaders to take on when they are looking within themselves, because that is really, truly where the work lies. We know that that that internal bias, that showing up is what leaders need to really be focused on.


00:15:50:20 - 00:16:11:26

Mita Mallick

Absolutely. I do talk about in the book there are structural things that companies do that are important. You help companies all the time with this, processes and things that need to be in place. And so, I would argue many companies from a process perspective have things in place. But guess what? It's me, me to the individual leader with her bias who shows up and wreaks havoc in the system.


00:16:11:26 - 00:16:30:04

Mita Mallick

That's what happens. And some of Melanie, what you're talking about in regards to the book is that I really wanted people to self-reflect and ask themselves open-ended questions. You know, one of my myths that people have been talking a lot about is I'm all for diverse talent as long as they're good. I'm all for diverse talent, as long as they're good.


00:16:30:06 - 00:16:32:21

Melanie Roberson

I've literally heard that at our company.


00:16:32:23 - 00:16:51:26

Mita Mallick

Yes, I'm sure you have. I've been called a diversity hire. I say I'm not a diversity hire. I earned this seat. And I ask us to think about that statement. I'm all for diverse talent as long as they're good. Would we ever ask ourselves the question or make the statement: I'm all for non-diverse talent as long as they’re good, I'm all for non-diverse talent.


00:16:51:26 - 00:17:12:06

Mita Mallick

As long as they're good. So why, when we think that we are looking at a slate of candidates or an individual who is not from a majority group community that we are familiar with, that we all of a sudden think we've dropped the standards of talent? Like, why is that? And so that is the interrogation that has to happen.


00:17:12:06 - 00:17:47:10

Mita Mallick

And as I argue in the book, we're actually doing this work backwards. We're spending, what is it, $8 billion or more in diversity, equity, inclusion training. That was last year's number. I don't even know what this year's number is from a US perspective, I'm sure it's more. And we think that we're going to put people through a four-hour unconscious bias training workshop, and God, I hope no one's doing that, and all of a sudden I'm going to be a more inclusive leader. This work doesn’t start at our conference room tables. It starts at our kitchen tables. It starts in our homes and our communities. It starts with who we surround ourselves with. It starts with how we build cross-cultural, meaningful relationships, because that's how we break through stereotypes.


00:17:47:10 - 00:18:18:12

Mita Mallick

Because I promise you, if you've never met a brown woman, South Asian woman, and your only access to her is through film or media or books, and then you're coming into work and you're leading diverse teams, like, I can be working for Lisa on her C-suite and Lisa can look, I'm the chief marketing officer. She's like, wow, Mita has strong diversity of representation on her team, right? Done a good job building it. The next question Lisa should ask is, is Mita fit to lead this team? Is she fit to lead this team?


00:18:18:14 - 00:18:22:09

Lisa Thee

I wouldn't have promoted you if you hadn't been fit to do that, Mita.


00:18:22:09 - 00:18:54:14

Mita Mallick

But I mean, in terms of like having an understanding of other people's lived experiences, how do you unlock the potential of a team where there's a diversity of backgrounds, diverse representation, diversity of styles in terms of how people work, right? And so that's what I think is the biggest challenge now is that really asking ourselves, well, how are we really on a journey to be a more inclusive leader and continue to try to understand experiences that aren't our own and whether we realize or not, we're bringing that with us to work.


00:18:54:17 - 00:18:58:22

Melanie Roberson

So, a lot of companies do do that, you know, four-hour diversity training.


00:18:58:22 - 00:18:59:24

Mita Mallick

Oh gosh.


00:18:59:24 - 00:19:11:16

Melanie Roberson

And actually, we have done that at our organization. What are some other things that you recommend that organizations do to supplement that? Because that is the place to start.


00:19:11:18 - 00:20:13:10

Mita Mallick

And one of the things you have to do is, which is why I was excited to leave a very large public company. I've had a very long career in big public, a Fortune 100 companies, and going to a smaller company where you're starting to create these processes from the start and you're starting to think, how do I interrupt bias in the recruiting process? What are the systems and tools and processes I need to have in place? But how do I remind people of when I'm interviewing, make sure you have the same list of questions for everyone. Wow, sounds really simple, but guess what? I'm going to get on a call with Melanie. She's interviewing for a role on my team. And I find out we both played lacrosse at Stanford. We both summer in the same town every year. Our kids are similar in age and guess what? We don't even talk about the job because I just like her so much and I show up to the panel debrief, and I actually have no evidence of why Melanie should get the job, except we played lacrosse together. And so there are so many moments like that.


00:20:13:12 - 00:20:41:26

Mita Mallick

Talent management processes, right? How are you fairly and equitably evaluating people's performance. Performance improvement plans? Gosh, how many times have I heard, oh, Mita used to be so engaged and now she's a low performer and it's like, okay, what role did Lisa, her manager, play in that? Right. You talk about poor performance and like, do we label everyone equally as a poor performer and what does that even mean?


00:20:41:26 - 00:21:10:00

Mita Mallick

So, I go back to the people processes, you know, the employee experience. There's so many ways in which we can be interrupting bias and thinking about that, and I talk a lot about that in Reimagine Inclusion. And then the other pieces, we have to be thinking about brands, products and services. I don't care what business in you're in, you're selling something. And the question is, who are you selling to and why and who are you excluding and why? And so that's a big, inclusion being a big driver of the business. So, thinking about that as well.


00:21:10:03 - 00:21:21:16

Lisa Thee

So, Mita, we've referenced a couple of myths so far. I think for our audience it’d be really fun for them to hear some of your chapter titles because I found them so energizing. Do you mind going through your list?


00:21:21:19 - 00:21:23:12

Mita Mallick

Do you want me to read them aloud?


00:21:23:15 - 00:21:30:18

Lisa Thee

I would love to hear them, if you don't mind, and then pick your favorite one and tell us a little bit of the backstory of why.


00:21:30:22 - 00:22:10:25

Mita Mallick

This is the first time I'm doing it, and I actually have a copy of my book, which is really exciting. Okay, here we go. Myth one: Of course I support Black Lives Matter. Why are you asking if I have any black friends? Myth two: I always allow everyone to speak in meetings. Of course I'm an inclusive leader. Myth three: It's time to have some courageous conversations on race. Let's ask our employees of color to lead them. Myth four: I'm all for diverse talent as long as they are good. Myth five: We protect the a-holes because our businesses wouldn't run without them. Myth six: Why are you asking for a raise? You and your husband make more than enough money. Myth seven: We need more people of color in leadership.


00:22:11:01 - 00:22:33:10

Mita Mallick

Let's launch a mentorship program. Myth eight: Of course we support women. We just extended maternity leave. Myth nine: These DE&I efforts don't benefit me. My voice as a white man doesn't count anymore. Myth ten: No one can question our support of the LGBTQ+ community. Look at how much money we invest in June Pride Month. We aren't diversity washers.


00:22:33:12 - 00:22:53:05

Mita Mallick

Myth 11: Our ad wasn't racist. It was simply a mistake. Myth 12: We aren't apologizing. People need to stop being so sensitive. Myth 13: We can work from home now. The future of work is inclusive. And now I think I need to take a sip of my tea. Thank you very much.


00:22:53:08 - 00:23:15:10

Lisa Thee

I appreciate you giving us the breadth. But I wanted to make sure that people that are picking up your book really understand that you’re not just talking about your own lived experience, but a broad swath based on multiple companies, generations, and different populations and how they've been affected. So, I must admit that I really enjoy multiple of the myths in here.


00:23:15:10 - 00:23:36:04

Melanie Roberson

Know, I actually want to hear Mita’s favorites and what the story or stories are behind their inclusion in the book. I know that you likely have a ton of stories that go with each one of these myths, but are there any ones that are particularly like, you know, this story needs to be told for folks who haven’t read the book?


00:23:36:04 - 00:23:56:25

Mita Mallick

Now, it's like you're asking me to pick between my kids, right? My kids do this, what’s the favorite. You know, the one that I've been really surprised about that's getting a lot of interest is Myth six, why are you asking for a raise? Your husband makes more than enough money. And Forbes, actually, my friend Kwame just wrote a whole piece on it, and you can check it out in Forbes and his column.


00:23:56:25 - 00:24:16:26

Mita Mallick

And I think what it was was, I know I was saying the quiet parts out loud, but this one was one where I wrote it down.  I was surprised at how many women have related to this myth of women are sort of you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. If I wear the hoodie to work, I don't have the privilege to wear the hoodie.


00:24:16:26 - 00:24:36:00

Mita Mallick

I'm going to be seen as unprofessional and be discounted. And then all of a sudden, when I wear really nice things to work, people question the need to have to pay me as much or Mita has a Birkin bag. She doesn't need that 5% raise. Mita’s the primary breadwinner of her family. She doesn't need a retention bonus.


00:24:36:00 - 00:24:54:20

Mita Mallick

She's not going anywhere. Oh, Mita, you're giving her a 5% increase. Did you know her husband Jim works in sales and he's killing it, so we can turn that down to a 2%? I mean, the things that I've heard are outrageous. And I, believe you me, because I've asked my husband these things, he's never heard these things. I'm not saying men don't.


00:24:54:20 - 00:25:11:13

Mita Mallick

And I'm sure if they have, they will reach out to us. But it is just unbelievable. And of course, the myth in this, as I open the book in the story, as you both read, this manager found out what my husband did for a living and held it against me when it came time for me to ask to have my pay reviewed.


00:25:11:16 - 00:25:34:24

Lisa Thee

Oh, I remember coming back from my second maternity leave and being told that it was fine to move me into a commission-only sales position because it was my husband's job to pay the mortgage and my money was for shoes. Shoes. That was 2013. It was a decade ago now, but it was certain, I thought I was transported to 1952.


00:25:34:24 - 00:25:35:07

Melanie Roberson

Yeah.


00:25:35:12 - 00:25:40:17

Lisa Thee

When that came out of my leader's mouth in a performance review of all things.


00:25:40:17 - 00:26:03:17

Melanie Roberson

And it's so interesting, I think particularly in today's climate, I have had several girlfriends have this conversation with me just recently. The stories that we make up, and we would never, ever say that about a man. We wouldn't make assumptions about his, you know, his financial prowess. We wouldn't ever do it. And so, it's just one of those things.


00:26:03:20 - 00:26:24:04

Mita Mallick

And so, the myth I wanted to dispel very head on was that women of color and white women don't negotiate. We often do negotiate. Now, listen, I talk about my own cultural upbringing, my difficulty in learning how to negotiate and ask for more. I've gotten there over time, so now I am comfortable. I know my worth and I can ask for more.


00:26:24:06 - 00:26:48:03

Mita Mallick

And now that I'm in a place to do that, I'm often dismissed. Gaslight, gaslit, minimized. Oh, you think you're worth that much? Your husband makes more than enough money. What are you going to do with all that money? What? That happened to someone recently, somebody said, the boss said to the person, well, what are you going to do with all this money that you're asking for? What? What?


00:26:48:05 - 00:27:17:17

Lisa Thee

Well, I think my favorite myth out of there was myth number five. We protect the a-holes because our business wouldn't run without them. And when you were talking about those performance impacts that leaders can have on full swaths of organization, it is so fascinating to me how instead of, you know, using that engineering training that a lot of us come into these male-dominated field with, of looking for root cause and getting specific about what is causing this impact.


00:27:17:22 - 00:27:42:23

Lisa Thee

You know, we all know that people don't quit their jobs. They quit their bosses oftentimes. But, you know, you often see people promoted feeling forward in those instances versus being identified as creating these problematic environments where people's performance are hit. What are some of the thoughts that you guys have around that topic and how do we start to disrupt that behavior systematically?


00:27:42:29 - 00:28:25:02

Mita Mallick

You know what just sort of floors me, even as I think about this myth, the lengths leaders will go to to protect Mita, who is the most toxic leader, right? Like Mita’s like the known problem in the company. Where there's smoke, there's fire. Five women of color left Mita’s team over the course of nine days, and we bury that exit interview data in a way we would never bury customer data. Like if right now I had my own shampoo company and I had a negative review on Amazon. I’d just hit, and I’d exit this call as fast as I could because I would make sure that if Lisa had a problem with my shampoo, I'd be sending her a basket of it. I'd be calling her to ask her.


00:28:25:02 - 00:28:43:29

Mita Mallick

And, you know, we treat our employees like the forgotten consumer. You think about employee engagement, you think about like they can be setting little fires in your organization, or they can be your fiercest and loyal, most loyal advocates If you actually put their well-being and their concerns at the center. And so that's what I ask as I coach leaders.


00:28:43:29 - 00:29:09:08

Mita Mallick

It's like, why are you willing to risk your company's reputation, your personal reputation, all for Mita, who's a toxic leader. And it's so fascinating that a lot of time as a response I’ll get like, well, Mita is the one who knows every rope. She knows how to run the business and the business doesn’t run without her. And I was like, no, she's just managed up so well.


00:29:09:08 - 00:29:30:10

Mita Mallick

She's convinced you of that. Everyone else is doing the work, and so everyone else is doing the work. But that's where it's like, wow, the bias. And a lot of times it comes down to personal relationships, like Lisa's known Mita for so long that she just can't, won't believe anything anyone says, including Melanie. That's just not believable, the feedback.


00:29:30:10 - 00:29:55:10

Melanie Roberson

Yeah I think it's that. And I also think it's just the conventional wisdom, right? I think it is the conventional wisdom that this person, because of who that person represents, no matter if they're good or not, but who they represent, means that they can do this work. Right. So, if they are a, you know, a white male from Harvard, then obviously they can run the business and no one else can do it.


00:29:55:12 - 00:30:17:25

Melanie Roberson

And if they have been running the business, even though, you know, they probably have like, you know, men, as you shared Mita, have managed up well, other people are doing the work, you know, they probably have made lots of mistakes along the way. But because of who they represent, no one's going to question that. But had someone else been in that role, then that's where the conventional wisdom kind of breaks down.


00:30:17:29 - 00:30:50:24

Melanie Roberson

And then we start to question more. And it all comes back to that personal work that people need to do around bias. And the myth for you that made me so sad as I read it is number 12, which is we aren't apologizing, they just need to stop being so sensitive. And, you know, I face that one probably 30 times a day. And it is, it's one of those ones that is just you know, it's, there is no easy answer to that one. That one's a difficult one. What are your thoughts on that one?


00:30:50:24 - 00:31:10:27

Mita Mallick

It is. And I think in that one in particular, we aren't apologizing, they need to stop being so sensitive. It's the individual and it's the organization. So, if I have caused Melanie hurt or harm, what stops me from apologizing? A number of things. I don't think I'm wrong. I'm too arrogant. And then it's easy to say she's too sensitive so I can move on from it.


00:31:11:00 - 00:31:32:11

Mita Mallick

And it's also brands. If I picked up my phone right now, there'd be some other brand in the marketplace who's made a colossal mistake. Sexist, racist, homophobic, and again, being in rooms with leaders, oh, they’re just being sensitive. It's going to go away. Don't worry. It'll go away. And wow, the power of a genuine apology. It's just unbelievable.


00:31:32:11 - 00:31:55:07

Mita Mallick

The power of a genuine apology. I always joke. It's like, it's not my husband's non-apology, which is like, I'm sorry I made you feel that way. Like, that's the non-apology, right? It's like, I'm sorry is a full sentence and then taking responsibility for actions. But then you have to show up to do better and be better. And I just I'm like, the psychology behind that, it's like what stops us from apologizing? Like, why won't we apologize?


00:31:55:09 - 00:32:55:24

Lisa Thee

It is an interesting dynamic. So, I had an experience with a local diner recently where I had my service dog that's in training with me, and it's an 18-month process. And so, we are six months into an 18-month process, so behavior isn't perfect yet. And because there's no visible signals that I'm a disabled person that requires a service dog, I get so many people interrupting my conversations, interrupting my meetings, interrupting just ad hoc to make sure that I understand the ADA law and that a service dog is required, even though my dog is dressed appropriately. And you can't tell that I'm in a meeting because it's going through my hearing aids, and you can't see them under my hair. The amount of education people feel comfortable to educate a disabled person about, about how they should be behaving in public because they happen to work in a restaurant.


00:32:55:24 - 00:33:45:25

Lisa Thee

I think you'd be pretty surprised. I actually got yelled at the top of someone, servers lungs for 15 minutes about how I needed to get out of the restaurant because my dog was two inches from where he needed to be sitting under the table, according to the law. And my first response was, I'm done with my meal, we're wrapping up, I'm just going to leave. And they just kept making a complete example out of me. And the excuse that I got was, you don't understand how many people are faking it and just want to take their dogs everywhere. And what I wanted to say 12 hours later when I could compose myself was, you don't understand how hard it is to just get through a day.


00:33:45:29 - 00:34:21:24

Lisa Thee

And being made an example of. I don't care how many people are using an excuse or lying, that doesn't give you the right to remove my dignity and make me cry in public over following the law. And so, I think sometimes people really struggle with understanding that, especially in business environments, just because you know a little bit about a topic, if you don't have the lived experience, it doesn't mean that you're right.


00:34:21:27 - 00:34:46:23

Lisa Thee

And I think that's where a lot of the times people are resistant to apologize, are resistant to accept responsibility. Because I'm sure that person just had a particularly bad day that day. Something probably went wrong in their whole life. And I think a lot of times people are very protective of the people making the mistakes because they don't want to take responsibility for the behavior.


00:34:46:23 - 00:35:28:11

Lisa Thee

Right? Especially corporations, big brands. There was probably a big group of people that looked at that campaign or a big group of people that authorized that statement and just had a blind spot and they missed it. And it doesn't take that much to just acknowledge somebody's experience and realize that you can do better. But I think there's a worry that by acknowledging it your almost excepting responsibility that you're going to have to dig out from for decades. I guess my thought is as people who have had experiences of being in rooms where things like that have happened, how do you experience it when somebody owns it, acknowledges it and apologizes for it?


00:35:28:14 - 00:35:46:12

Mita Mallick

Well, Lisa, first, I want to say how sorry I am that happened to you. And I hope for those listening that can hear the hurt in your voice, the allies listening, who else was there that watched that happen, that could have intervened on your behalf or stood up with you and for you? And that's also happening in our workplaces each and every day.


00:35:46:14 - 00:35:49:02

Lisa Thee

Thank you, Mita. I appreciate it. I don't want to make it about me.


00:35:49:07 - 00:36:34:17

Mita Mallick

But I think that's an important story to hear because that happens all, I mean, that has happened to you and it's horrible and painful. We've all had different experiences. And I just wonder, I go back to those experiences. There's the person who's being targeted and then there's a perpetrator and there's everybody else who's watching. Right. And so that is one of the things that I am hoping happens more in our workplaces that I am, I do this work on behalf of myself and others, but as a woman of color, I am exhausted. I'm tired of having to stand up for myself. I wish someone else would intervene on my behalf when these things are happening. And here's the thing about apologies. If I have harmed Melanie and I come to her and offer a genuine apology and she accepts it. Now, she doesn't have to accept it.


00:36:34:17 - 00:36:56:28

Mita Mallick

Right. But if she accepts it, my job is then to show up to do better and be better in that work relationship. Because if I don't, then that apology is null and void and that doesn't also mean that I can continue to cause hurt and harm to her and then just apologize every time. Right? And so, the proof is really in the pudding when people, there's a genuine apology.


00:36:56:28 - 00:37:21:29

Mita Mallick

Yes. You owned the mistake. You're not deflecting it. You're not pretending it didn't happen. And then you're showing someone how you're learning from it. And I hope that we have more kindness and compassion in our workplaces where we can forgive each other for when the intent doesn't match the impact and when someone genuinely is trying to do better. I think there's a difference between that versus people who are causing hurt and harm. Because we talked about toxic leaders. Many toxic leaders are so deeply hurt, they're lashing out at other people all day, every day in our workplaces. And those are two different things.


00:37:32:06 - 00:37:42:11

Lisa Thee

Yeah, I think you're really right about that power of the observer in those instances to stand up. We know it's more impactful than even the person that's involved in this situation, either one.


00:37:42:15 - 00:38:10:14

Melanie Roberson

And just to add to that, I think that, you know, a focus on others’ lived experiences or, you know, others having empathy for others in their experiences is something that we just haven't had enough focus on in our lives. And that is, I think, a place for us to start. I think we are so self-centered in our understanding of the world in many instances and putting ourselves in others’ shoes.


00:38:10:14 - 00:38:40:09

Melanie Roberson

And that's where that kind of genuineness of that apology can start is, I can really try to understand it from your perspective. And that's, you know, that builds in the sincerity of that apology and enough people don't do that. They look at it from their perspective and they look at it from, you know, you're being too sensitive or you, you know, well, you know, you really should have done X, Y and Z or A, B, and C from my perspective or seeing it from the perpetrator's perspective.


00:38:40:09 - 00:38:58:17

Melanie Roberson

But if you flip it and really try to understand it from other people's perspective, then you know, that's where the learning comes in. And we often are trying to learn other people's experiences. And that's I think where the gap is.


00:38:58:20 - 00:39:11:12

Lisa Thee

Mita I would love to hear your perspective, systematically in the workplace what can we do to improve these scenarios? I think humans are very capable of learning, right? So, what are some tips and tricks we can provide to people that want to be better allies that want to be more inclusive?


00:39:11:12 - 00:39:30:21

Mita Mallick

I’ll go back to what we just talked about, which is I'm going to sound like the New York City subway. But when you see something, say something. It's never too late in the moment or after the fact. If I see Melanie or Lisa being hurt or harmed in the workplace, what's my responsibility? I understand there's real power and privilege at play in our workplaces.


00:39:30:23 - 00:40:01:12

Mita Mallick

If I don't feel comfortable, is there my boss's boss or someone I can go to, like how can I show up and help? Because we spend way too much time at work not to protect the cultures we're building. We each have a responsibility. We each own the culture. So, I’d ask people to think about that. And then I would just leave people with this question to say, what are you personally doing to make sure that someone on your team who works for you or someone who you work with feels like they belong, feels like they included, and those are the small things and big things.


00:40:01:15 - 00:40:20:26

Mita Mallick

Is Mita invited to present her own work? Was Mita's work stolen by someone else? Is Mita being recognized and attributed? Am I standing up for her when it comes for promotion time? There's so many different ways but be the reason that someone feels included and valued at work. Be that person.


00:40:20:28 - 00:40:41:27

Lisa Thee

I love that. So, Mita I feel like we just scratched the surface of all that we could talk about in this space. And I really love some of the things that you brought to bear for us on the forefront. Melanie, thank you so much for helping us round out the conversation from an employee engagement perspective. What kinds of capacities are there to improve the outcomes.


00:40:41:27 - 00:41:00:11

Lisa Thee

Because at the end of the day, we don't want to pay people for their time. We want to pay people for their talent. And if we are not unleashing all of that talent because of workplace inclusion issues, we haven't made it there. So, Mita, for people that want to get a copy of your book as it's launching and follow you, what are the best ways to stay in touch?


00:41:00:13 - 00:41:12:28

Mita Mallick

Sure. Well, Reimagine Inclusion: Debunking 13 Myths to Transform Your Workplace. It's available on Amazon, available at retailer, available at your independent local bookstore. And you can follow me on LinkedIn. And thanks so much for having me both. I really appreciate it.


00:41:12:29 - 00:41:20:14

Lisa Thee

We really enjoyed it. And Melanie, for people that are looking for consulting services to help with this enhanced employee engagement, how can they reach you?


00:41:20:19 - 00:41:27:14

Melanie Roberson

Yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn as well, at Launch Consulting or you can find me, Melanie Roberson, at LinkedIn.


00:41:27:16 - 00:41:39:15

Lisa Thee

Thank you so much for everybody for this open and vulnerable conversation today. I think when we know better, we do better. And I learned a lot today, and I hope you did as well. Thank you for joining us.

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