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Mentors in the Workplace: A Call to Action

Mentors in the Workplace: A Call to Action

Mentors in the workplace, we need you. Now more than ever.

Events within our country have demonstrated that there is a need for more dialogue and discussion around topics such as inclusion, equity, and diversity. Organizations across the nation are searching for tools and ways to build a safe space for dialogue. As mentioned in our January article, Mentoring: The Diversity and Inclusion Key, mentoring can support employee connection and build an inclusive culture.

Mentoring has the power to build safety and enable dialogue.

Within my career path, I’ve often found myself being “the only”, whether that was due to my age, gender, or race. Oftentimes, I would and honestly, still do, feel as though sometimes being “the only” can seemingly isolate my experiences and perspectives.

Humans are innately prone to seek community.

It’s ingrained in our DNA and has been noted as a key of our survival. Gallup has even shown within its research that individuals who have community at work are more engaged and likely to be retained. In order for our nation and organizations to survive the intensity of combating COVID-19 and re-emerging themes in race relations, we need champions of dialogue and safety; individuals who have the emotional dexterity and fortitude to start conversations with their head and hearts.

In the last several weeks, I was hit with a flurry of emotions and overwhelmed. While I was an engine at work, I would come home every night and find myself physically and emotionally exhausted. The Yolanda machine was starting to feel depleted. I resorted to retreating to my bed to hide from the realities of life around me. I felt paralyzed, trapped, and helpless. The news seemed to swirl daily with more tragic news, but I knew that even if I turned off the tv, I couldn’t turn off life. This was scary! The all-too-common experiences I had growing up and my deepest fears were now primetime for the world to see. I felt paralyzed and unable to produce in other areas that were important to me – even with this blog. Regardless of how I felt, I knew that I needed to “keep going”. This lasted for about two weeks. My long-time mentor, who is opposite of me in every way, sought me out after a business meeting at work and said, “Yolanda, I know that there is a lot going on nationally and I don’t have any words, but I wanted to check in and ask how are you feeling? How is this impacting you? That is what is most important to me.” Immediately, a river of tears escaped me. What occurred in that moment was my mentor giving me the ability to breathe by giving me permission in our dialogue to not be strong and be vulnerable. My mentor led with empathy, rather than politically correct, practiced talking points. He listened. Simply listened. I felt seen. I felt cared for. I felt like I had a tribe. My mentor made me feel human and that I could survive this moment and every one that may come afterwards.

Mentors, this is YOUR moment!

It is your movement. It will be your one-on-one meetings, peer sessions, and other environments that start to build the microcosms of conversations that will turn into the norm for the world. Boldly and courageously use this moment to answer the call of not only developing people professionally but undergirding them emotionally. None of us have all the answers, but what you do have as mentors is access! Use your access to those struggling to find the words and looking for emotional safety. If you’ve not heard it yet, WE NEED YOU.

Yolanda Johnson, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Highly energetic and enthusiastic HR professional. Skilled in aligning business strategy with talent management programs that initiate and sustain corporate culture change. Demonstrated ability to apply a systematic process for analyzing human performance gaps and closing them