Welcome to Speakfully Insider, a weekly series featuring thought leaders on important topics surrounding workplace mistreatment, company culture, workplace safety, social justice, and more.
Please introduce yourself.
I’m Kryss Shane, MS, MSW, LSW, LMSW. I use she/her pronouns and I am mostly known for my LGBT+ activism and for my unending love of all things tie-dye. I have over 25 years of experience guiding the world’s top leaders in business, education, and community via individual, small group, and full-staff trainings. I’ve been featured as America’s go-to Leading LGBT+ Expert in The New York Times, ABC News, Yahoo!, and CNN.
I help businesses, schools, and even families address their unique Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion needs in an approachable, manageable and actionable way. This includes alterations to physical spaces, updating hiring practices, re-drafting policies and procedures, and more.
I am the author of Creating an LGBT+ Inclusive Workplace: The Practical Resource Guide for Business Leaders, which provides best practices and professional guidance for creating LGBT+ inclusive workplaces, including creating safer working environments, updating company policies, enhancing continuing education and training, and better supporting LGBT+ people in the workplace training and other tangible ways to support LGBT+ people in the workplace. I also wrote The Educator's Guide to LGBT+ Inclusion, the first book of its kind to guide educators, administrators, and school staff to become able and empowered to make their schools more LGBT+ inclusive.
How did you become interested in helping businesses expand and improve as it relates to Diversity and Inclusion?
I grew up mostly in a small town in Northeast Ohio. Although there were some great memories of going to get fresh corn and driving around on backroads with the windows down and the music up, it was a really homogeneous place. I was in middle school before I met someone non-white, no one there was openly LGBT+, and I didn’t have experiences with a variety of cultures or backgrounds until I left town for college. That said, I was in the majority there, so I didn’t notice all of the ways that this experience sheltered me from the types of upbringings others were having throughout the country. Luckily, I have always been a reader from a very early age and I’ve always sought out opportunities to learn, which helped me to begin to build a foundation of learning about different people from different backgrounds even before I had friends who were much different from me. The knowledge led to the deep desire to volunteer with organizations creating change and that led to leadership roles and multiple advanced degrees to gain the skills and education necessary to best support LGBT+ inclusion. As an adult, I’ve traveled and lived all over the country and actively sought out experiences that make me uncomfortable so I could expand my worldview. I don’t find it helpful to surround myself with people who are just like me, I want to learn about how others see and experience the world. The more I know, the more supportive I can be, which also inspires my activism and my seeking out ways to use the privileges I have! As a result, my work is able to focus on the unique needs of each client, consider the location and culture of the community, and create and enable LGBT+ inclusion in approachable cost-effective ways that support equity!
What are you seeing within workplace culture as it relates to our humanity, kindness, and inclusion since 2020?
It’s a mixed bag these days. I think more white people are becoming aware in ways they never had, and I think more BIPOC are exhausted by watching more and more news stories of the murders and harm of people who look like them. LGBT+ people are still being attacked with hateful bills throughout the country, which is terrifying. However, I am also seeing many more people becoming allies, allies becoming activists, and voices are getting louder when harm occurs. It’s not perfect, but I have hope and I know I’m not the only one who’ll never stop fighting!
What are some of the general suggestions you make to your corporate clients as it relates to workplace mistreatment?
(laughs) My book publisher wouldn’t be too happy if I gave the book contents away! That said, when I wrote Creating an LGBT+ Inclusive Workplace: The Practical Resource Guide for Business Leaders, I did so with a focus on making workplace mistreatment end without interrupting what makes the business profitable. This is often tiny details that most don’t notice but that truly impact feelings of safety in the workplace. Sometimes we focus on no-cost trainings or alterations to paperwork. Although many assume that inclusion means big spending and undermining the entire organization and its goals, inclusion actually means that employee retention improves, the company becomes better able to hire the best recruits, and the community embraces and supports the company. Who wouldn’t want that?!
How does your role as a changemaker create a more positive work environment?
Some of it ties into being knowledgeable and non-judgmental, which allows people to know that they can be their full authentic selves around me. Some of it ties into my continuing to learn and to acknowledge my errors. As a white person, being mindful of my privilege and being intentional in continuing to learn from others who don’t look or love like me allows the culture around me to feel more encouraged to seek out information and to support people who are different from them.
How may we help release fear of repercussion as it relates to workplace mistreatment?
Much of this fear ties into misconceptions. Undoing workplace mistreatment isn’t about a gotcha moment, it’s about ensuring employees’ safety. When we think about all of the things we want from our employees (consistency, longevity, loyalty, capability, success, etc.), we must recognize that a lack of safety undermines their ability to provide what a company wants, which undermines the company’s success. As a result, any company wanting to maximize success absolutely must work to end workplace mistreatment!
If you were to start a conscience-based movement, what would it be?
It’d be a movement toward more reading and more education! Companies need to bring in subject matter experts on an ongoing basis to provide trainings, offer discounts or free books to encourage employee learning (or have a company-wide reading hour once a week). With books like mine and like Fred Joseph’s “The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person,” people can continue to learn, grow, and become more empathetic, which will translate into better teamwork, healthier workplace environments, and a more successful business.
What is your opinion of HR Tech platforms like Speakfully that give employees a way to track mistreatment anonymously while leadership receives valuable analytics to decipher important conversations to improve workplace culture?
I wish we didn’t need it. I wish it was safe for people to openly discuss their experiences without repercussion. In reality, though, we aren’t there. As a result, the options are either to celebrate the work Speakfully is doing to help people to be heard and to change culture or to be intentionally ignorant to the realities of harm occurring within your business.