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Are You Prepared to Discuss Race at Work?

Managers are responsible for 70 percent of variance in employee engagement, Gallup estimated in its State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders report. Employee engagement can affect major key performance indicators for organizations, including customer ratings, profitability, productivity, product quality, turnover, theft rates, and safety incidents. However, only 30 percent of U.S. employees are engaged at work, with that number dropping to 13 percent worldwide.

One area where managers can bolster employee engagement and experience is around race and equality in the workplace.

“Given heightened sensitivity in the past year to matters of race relations, many employees are looking to their manager to initiate productive and effective conversations about race and equality,” Gallup noted. However, not all managers are equally prepared to tackle this topic.


Only 42 percent of managers in the United States strongly agree that they are prepared to have meaningful conversations about race and equality with their teams, according to a Gallup Panel study of managers. Regardless of the managers’ race, age, or gender, preparedness remains lacking. But organizations can help; managers in equality-committed workplaces are three times more likely to express preparedness for these conversations than managers in organizations that are not openly committed to racial justice or equality.

Training is also essential; 41 percent of managers reported attending a training or education program focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) or another racial justice topic. Employees in larger companies—those with 100 or more employees—are more likely to have received training or attended a town hall on DE&I subjects. A majority of managers (55 percent) who received training said they felt more prepared to have meaningful conversations about race and equality with their teams, but only 29 percent of managers who did not receive training or attend company-sponsored town halls felt prepared.

“Participating in even one training event or companywide meeting about race significantly strengthens managers’ comfort with having these important conversations,” Gallup noted. “This shows that the entry barrier for workplaces to prepare managers is low and that investment in training can pay dividends for fostering a culture of inclusion and belonging.”