Practice your leadership skills by ensuring overlooked coworkers get noticed 🔍
The stolen spotlight. We’ve all seen it.
Recently I met with a team where the most junior member, a woman, had an exciting new idea she wanted to share with the group.
She mustered the courage to say it, but when she got to the crux of her idea, a more senior male talked over her.
Her point got derailed, the moment was gone, and people forgot what she was even talking about.
Moments like this happen at work all the time, and while it may be awkward to intervene when you witness someone’s thunder being stolen, it’s well worth the discomfort.
Being an advocate for overlooked coworkers is a powerful way to foster a welcoming and inclusive work environment. It signals that you’re an ally and a friend. It also lets employees know they’re valued.
But let’s back up for a second. Why do people get overlooked at work? For many reasons: They may be new to the company and feel shy. They might be naturally introverted and have a hard time speaking up. Or maybe it’s a classic case of other coworkers having too much unconscious bias in their morning coffee.
As one example, white men tend to get assignments that will enhance their career more often than women do – even if the woman is just as or more qualified. Women tend to either believe they are underqualified or accept assignments without negotiation, often because “insistent” women are historically viewed as demanding. However, this isn’t only true for women. Similar treatment is experienced by other marginalized groups, including people of color and LGBTQIA people.
Whatever someone’s “reason” for overlooking a colleague, we all can give each other the chance to share our greatness!
Drawing some positive attention to your overlooked coworkers allows them to use their unique experiences and knowledge to propel your organization further. It also helps establish trust and respect – two important factors in any relationship.
Here are three ways you can advocate for your overlooked coworkers, based on the insightful work of Dr. Joan Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Hastings:
Quick Confidence Tips to Spread the Spotlight:
1. Mindset: Make a plan to give them a strong introduction. By taking a little time to understand your overlooked coworker’s professional history, you can highlight the main points when introducing them to someone new. Let’s face it: meeting new people can be overwhelming – especially if they’re a VIP. It can make the best among us nervous and self-conscious and can make our minds go completely blank! You can remove a ton of pressure from your coworker’s shoulders by starting the conversation with them. Not only does this ensure that you mention what makes them great, but it gives them a few extra seconds to collect their thoughts before speaking. Here’s an example: “Janine has five years of event planning experience, and I’m excited to have her on this project!”
2. Embodied: Shield Them from Critics. Sometimes, people think they have all the information or ideas they need, so they shut others out and make a decision with what they have. They don’t realize that the next idea might be the best they’ve heard yet! Your coworker may be overlooked because they “do things a little differently,” and that intimidates or confuses other people on your team. Or maybe they’re young or new to the company. Speak up if you know that your overlooked coworker has proven their value in a similar situation, or they have the skills necessary to succeed in a new endeavor. Here’s an example: “Let’s hear this idea out. I know Sam has run several full-cycle projects just like this.”
3. Interpersonal: Nominate them for great assignments. Don’t wait for assignments to get handed out if you know who would be perfect for the job! This is another reason getting to know your overlooked coworkers is crucial. With a brief understanding of their work history, you can help connect them to assignments that will communicate their value. Here’s an example: “Erin managed a similar portfolio last spring, and she’d be great at running point with the client.”
It’s Time to Take Personal Ownership
Giving everyone a truly equal opportunity means starting with your OWN actions.
Marginalized people as well as introverted, quiet, or shy folx are overlooked in the workplace so often that we’ve stopped noticing the pattern.
It’s crucial that we wake up to our own biases because desensitization is one of the main contributing factors to continued unconscious bias in the workplace.
Make a difference with your actions today! Use your voice to raise up overlooked coworkers, so they’re noticed when it matters most.