Logos team blog posts

Friends,

I founded Logos Consulting Group twenty years ago – in September 2002. I was 45 years old. My kids were 11 and 7.

Looking back, the Fall of 2002 was quite a time to take such a leap. It was a time of turmoil. In New York City. In the nation. In the world.

2002 Turmoil

The 9/11 attacks, just one year earlier, had shattered the nation’s sense of security. The United States military had gone into Afghanistan soon after the attack, where it would remain for 20 years. Excavation of the World Trade Center site was completed in May, but the smell of death and a sense of sadness continued to linger in the city.

By September 2002, President George W. Bush and his senior advisors were banging the drum about the need to invade Iraq. They lied to the American people. They conflated the 9/11 attacks by Al Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, with Iraq and its leader, Saddam Hussein. They warned that the next smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud, claiming falsely that Iraq had a nuclear capability and the desire to use it against the U.S.

Massive protests against invading Iraq began in September and continued for months. On one day alone, February 15, 2003, fully half a million people marched in protest in New York City; 15 million people protested that day in 800 cities around the world. At the United Nations some of our closest allies argued strenuously that it would be a mistake to invade Iraq. When the French foreign minister suggested at the United Nations that the U.S. was behaving impulsively, and the Security Council declined to pass an authorization to go to war, the Administration attacked France. President Bush said that our purported allies were either “for us or against us.” It turned petty: the U.S. House of Representatives cafeteria stopped calling its fried potatoes “French fries” and instead referred to them as “Freedom fries.” And the United States – with allies whom it called “the coalition of the willing” – invaded Iraq in March 2003.

The nation was also still in the midst of a severe recession triggered by the 2000 collapse of the dot-com bubble. Irrational exuberance had pumped up the stock of new tech companies that had yet to make a profit. Then a crash lost nearly 50 percent of the stock market’s value.

A series of corporate scandals had also shaken Americans’ confidence in corporate leadership. Enron, Arthur Andersen, Adelphia, WorldCom, and many others were caught committing massive fraud and dishonesty. Arthur Anderson was prosecuted and went out of business. Executives of other companies went to prison. Congress passed the Corporate Fraud Accountability Act of 2002, commonly known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Logos 

It was into this environment that I founded Logos: with no clients, no employees, and estranged from my employer of 12 years and mentor of 17 years. But with a sense of purpose. With a mission to help people become leaders who can ignite and inspire change in the world for the better.

Within four days we got our first client: A major commodities exchange whose CEO needed coaching. Then an UN-affiliated peacebuilding organization. Then a data services company being investigated by the SEC – our first crisis client, and for the first year our largest one. Then a prominent life sciences company. Then a large insurance company. Then a giant investment bank. By January 2003, we were a real firm. Before we moved into our first office space in 2007, we joked that my kitchen table was Logos Consulting Group’s World Headquarters. Two gifted colleagues joined the firm and helped to establish Logos as a credible advisor to senior leaders when the stakes are high.

In the 20 years since, we’ve benefitted from the gifts of many other people who came to and through Logos. We’ve worked for more than 300 clients – including some of the biggest and best-known companies and organizations in the world. Some have remained our clients for all this time. And we’ve been on the ground in dozens of countries.

Two years after we were founded, we created the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership, our think tank, executive education, and publishing arm. We’ve written books that have been published in three languages. After 15 years, we established the Logos Institute Press to publish other authors’ leadership books. We’ve taught at prominent universities and professional schools on three continents. And in 2021 we launched the Logos Learning Center to provide online training to individuals looking to bolster their leadership skills.

Continued Turmoil

About ten years ago we noticed a troubling trend and warned clients about it: an outbreak of incivility in society at large that we worried would spill into our clients’ workplaces and interfere with their business operations.

We saw that trend get worse in 2015 as political leaders dehumanized and demonized groups and rivals with deadly consequence. The FBI warned of a surge of opportunistic violence and hate crimes against targeted groups. The violence then metastasized into organized acts of terrorism. In June 2020, I published a book warning about this trend and its likely escalation.

Six months later, we saw a violent attack on the Capitol in an attempt to overturn a free and fair election.

Also in mid-2020, as the world grappled with an emerging pandemic, the United States government violated its own public health guidelines and politicized the pandemic response. A combination of incompetence, dishonesty, and neglect led to the worst pandemic response in the industrialized world, and to the preventable deaths of more than three quarters of a million Americans. And to death threats and acts of violence against public health experts and political leaders who counseled good public health practices. My next book is about this massive failure of leadership, which I call the single worst-handled crisis in American history.

2022 Turmoil

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called misinformation the nation’s leading cause of death. It noted that the surge of misinformation about the pandemic, masks, and vaccines led to hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths, especially among the unvaccinated or under-vaccinated.

And the world was thrown into turmoil earlier this year when Vladimir Putin’s Russia invaded Ukraine, and the world responded with the strictest economic sanctions against Russia. This led to a spike in oil prices and food shortages in much of the world. And now Russia itself is in turmoil as citizens resist the draft requiring them to fight in what Russia still refuses to call a war.

We see turmoil also in Iran, as citizens, especially women, take to the streets to protest the killing in police custody of a female Iranian citizen arrested for improperly wearing a hijab.

And in the United States the political divide has intensified further. The divide has been fueled by the Big Lie about the 2020 election, the embrace of conspiracy theories, and calls for violence if the former president – now facing an array of legal troubles – should be indicted.

Onward

And so, Logos begins our twenty-first year as we did our first, navigating through the turmoil. And helping our clients do the same. We are gratified that when the stakes are high clients turn to us.

Now more than ever society needs leaders equipped to inspire, to ignite people to overcome the turmoil, to push back against misinformation, and to build stronger organizations.

Now more than ever leaders know the consequences of poorly handled crises, and that there is a rigor to responding effectively and quickly in a crisis.

Now more than ever there is need to exercise leadership well. The stakes are that high.

Thank you for your confidence in Logos Consulting Group through the last 20 years. And thank you for your continued encouragement and support.

 

This is reflective piece is part of our 20th anniversary celebration. Throughout this anniversary year, we will be sharing a series of reflections on the shifts and trends we have been following in business and in the world over the past twenty years, as well as advice to leaders and organization navigating through the challenges we see today.

Logos Consulting Group is pleased to announce that Logos President Helio Fred Garcia, a member of the Columbia University Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences faculty, has been promoted from Adjunct Associate Professor to Adjunct (full) Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research.

Garcia is in his sixth year teaching in the school’s Professional Development and Leadership program. He teaches the required course on Ethics and Integrity for Engineers to all incoming M.S. and PhD students. He also participates in the required first-year undergraduate Art of Engineering course to  provide an introduction to ethical decision-making for undergraduate engineering students.

In the M.S. and PhD programs, Garcia teaches a number of electives, including Crisis Management for Engineers, Crisis Prevention for Engineers, Advanced Ethical Decision-Making, and Advanced Leadership Communication for Engineers. He also teaches once-per-semester workshops on Lessons for Leaders from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Garcia also mentors PhD students.

Additionally, Garcia partners with his fellow Adjunct Professor (and brother) Chuck Garcia to team-teach an online course on Leadership, Followership, and Teamwork. The two brothers also co-lead the school’s PDL Fellows program, where a select number of M.S. students participate in a multi-dimensional enhanced leadership opportunity.

Columbia Engineering’s Professional Development and Leadership (PDL) program was launched in the school’s Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research, and has since expanded school-wide for all degree programs. The program’s goal is to enhance the Columbia Engineering education by providing enrichment and development opportunities. The program assists students with in a number of ways, including:

  1. Obtaining skills to find and keep a role
  2. Learning how to grow and cultivate a career
  3. Recognizing effective leadership
  4. Learning to become an effective team player and follower
  5. Cultivating ethical behavior and values

… and striving to have fun while doing these things!

Garcia did his graduate studies at Columbia University in the late 1970s and early 1980s, where he studied ancient Greek philosophy, ethics, and political philosophy. His studies included advanced ethics.

In addition to his faculty position at Columbia University, Garcia has been on the New York University faculty since 1988, where, among other things, he has designed and taught courses on business and communication ethics. He is the author of five books on leadership, trust, and related topics.

On Friday, June 10, 2022, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia delivered a Columbia Engineering Alumni Day lecture on the US response to COVID-19 at the first in-person reunion of graduates of Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Garcia is an adjunct associate professor of professional development and leadership in the Professional Development and Leadership program at Columbia Engineering. He delivered one of three lectures in the school’s alumni association REUNION 22 LECTURES on-campus event.

In his lecture, Garcia focused on the intersection of crisis response and ethics, and demonstrated how COVID-19 – as a crisis that simultaneously affected every institution and every individual on the planet – provides a useful case study to see the patterns of effective and ineffective crisis response and ethical decision-making. Garcia quoted the Greek philosopher Plato, who noted: “To understand something difficult, study the biggest instance of it that we can. That’s because the patterns are easier to see. And the pattern is then laid up on heaven for anyone who wishes to contemplate it.”

Garcia began his lecture by laying out the foundational principles of effective crisis response:

  1. Show you care.
  2. Take risks seriously.
  3. Work to mitigate those risks early.

He then contrasted the U.S. response to COVID-19, the worst in the industrialized world, and the Republic of Korea response, among the best. Both nations had their first confirmed case of COVID-19 on the same day, January 20, 2020. South Korea followed the principles of effective response and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines; the United States did not. After one year, the South Korean death rate was 1 fatality for every 39,000 South Koreans; the U.S. death rate was 1 fatality for every 809, or a fatality rate 49 times Korea’s.

Garcia also highlighted the ways that misinformation and the modeling of unsafe practices led to hundreds of thousands of preventable COVID deaths. He quoted the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who in May 2022 called misinformation the leading cause of death in the U.S.

You can watch the full lecture here:

At Columbia Engineering, Garcia teaches ethics and integrity for engineers for all incoming undergraduate, MS, and PhD students. He also teaches graduate electives in advanced ethical decision-making, crisis prevention, crisis response, and leadership communication. Garcia is the author of five books, most recently Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It. His next book is The Trump Contagion: How Incompetence, Dishonesty, and Neglect Led to the Worst-Handled Crisis in American History.

On Saturday, April 23, 2022, Helio Fred Garcia participated in a panel discussion on Science and Partisanship at the National Undergraduate Conference on Scientific Journalism. The conference was hosted by the National Undergraduate Consortium for Science Journalism, which is a consortium of 17 undergraduate journals across the nation, chiefly interested in STEM research at the undergraduate level.

This year’s conference brought together hundreds of student-scientists and multiple undergraduate research journals from across the nation to discuss research ethics and practice, the publication process, the role of student journals, and more.

In addition to Garcia, the panel discussion on Science and Partisanship featured Professor Mark Cane from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, The Earth Institute, and Columbia University, and Professor Daniel Cornfield from Vanderbilt University. The panel was moderated by Taylor Ginieczki, NUCSJ Director of Civic Engagement and student at the University of Oregon.

Watch the full video of that panel discussion here:

“Our organization wants to celebrate [X] Heritage/History Month, but we are not sure how.”

This has been an increasingly common concern we hear from clients.

Heritage month celebrations in the United States were established by congressional proclamations during the 20th century. Now, they are celebrated throughout the year, commemorating the histories and contributions of historically marginalized communities to this country.

Celebrating heritage months as an organization can be tricky. Leaders are often afraid to come across as inauthentic or opportunistic and worry about causing more harm than good by missing the mark in celebrating these heritage months. As a result, many organizations and leaders, with the best of intentions, end up doing nothing at all.

As with any other form of DE&I work, there are no easy solutions or shortcuts. Successful DE&I initiatives require commitment and hard work. However, when done right, heritage month celebrations can help build trust with those people who matter most to your organization. Moreover, when the recognition and celebration of non-dominant identities becomes a natural part of an organization’s culture, that organization will become more inclusive and employees will become more engaged in their work.

In thinking about celebrating heritage months at your organization, there is a simple, yet powerful mindset that can help leaders and organizations approach this challenge: Meet the expectations of those people who matter most to you.

I will unpack what this means by using this year’s Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) Month as an example and offer practical advice for how you can celebrate heritage months the right way in your organization.

Shifting Societal Expectations: A Historical Problem Brought to the Forefront

At Logos Consulting Group, we teach clients that trust is the natural consequence of promises fulfilled, expectations met, and values lived. When it comes any form of DE&I work, having a current, up-to-date understanding of societal expectations is essential in thinking about meeting stakeholder expectations.

For the AAPI community, the rise of anti-Asian hatred since the beginning of Covid-19 has continued into 2022. According to the NYPD Hate Crimes Dashboard, 158 incidents of hate crimes against Asians were reported between March 2020 and December 2021. Hate crimes against Asians increased so much so that the New York Police Department created an Asian Hate Crime Task Force.

However, nothing we are seeing today is new. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have suffered from systemic racism and oppression throughout the history of the United States. People from India were brought into colonial Virginia in the early 1620s as servants and slaves. The 1871 the Chinese Massacre resulted in 10% of Los Angeles’s Chinese American population being killed. The Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 prohibited all Chinese immigration to the US. The 1924 Immigration Act was an explicit race-based immigration ban against Asians. The Japanese internment between 1942-1946 resulted in 120,000 people of Japanese descent being incarcerated in US concentration camps. And these are just a few examples of this systemic anti-Asian racism and oppression from US history.

What makes matters worse for the AAPI community is the “model minority” myth, a perception of universal acceptance and success of AAPI people who bear few traumatic racial struggles. As a result, their plight is often absent from racial justice discussions, and their suffering and contributions are often missed or glossed over in textbooks.

This systemic racism and erasure have set the tone for the AAPI community in the US for generations. Many Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders have walked around in American society with their heads down, mouths shut, and a persistent sense of otherness and inferiority. The rise of anti-Asian hate has finally, for good or for bad, shed a light on the elephant in the room.

Since the Atlanta shooting in March 2021, we’ve witnessed an outcry against Anti-Asian hate from across the country. For the first time in American history, advocacy for AAPI racial justice has been placed at the forefront of social discourse. Therefore, an expectation has been built in the AAPI community and with their allies – an expectation that their employers, partners, companies, and favorite brands will speak out and stand in solidarity with the AAPI community.

Opportunities and Risks

Given this shift of societal expectations, the 2022 AAPI Heritage Month becomes a critical moment. If organizations fail to meet those new expectations of the AAPI community and its allies, it will lead to a loss of trust among those who matter. However, if organizations succeed in meeting these new societal expectations, the trust and confidence of those who matter most will be maintained or even strengthened.

We can make this argument for all other heritage or history months. In this moment when ideologies in the US have become deeply polarized and when many ethnic cultures have been politicized and weaponized, it takes so much energy for people outside the dominant culture to check their identity at the door when they come to work.

Celebrating heritage months opens a door for necessary learning and honest conversation. It makes people in historically marginalized groups feel like they can be heard and that it is safe to bring their whole self to work.

If we don’t intentionally include, we will unintentionally exclude. Once an inclusive culture is in place, all of the positive benefits of an inclusive culture follow, such as increases in productivity, morale, creativity, collaboration, and so on.

Dos and Don’ts for Heritage Months

Given these new societal expectations, below is some practical advice to help you think about how your organization can celebrate heritage months:

  1. Show you care

In thinking about meeting stakeholder expectations, one common expectation is that all stakeholders expect you to care.

The first thing organizations and leaders can do to show they care is to utilize heritage months to facilitate learning about the history and culture of the specific community being celebrated. For example, an organization can host a screening of a relevant documentary or organize a book club or common read of a book the subject.

The second way organizations can show they care is to build understanding and advocate for solidarity, during heritage months and beyond. Using the AAPI Heritage Month as an example, you can host town hall meetings or facilitated conversations and invite AAPI employees to share their experiences and stories. As leaders, you can also personally reach out to your AAPI team members to offer support or appreciation of their contribution to the team.

  1. Address violence and oppression, while celebrating progress

Heritage months are to be celebrated – recognizing each community’s contribution to this country’s history and rejoicing in the richness and uniqueness of each cultural identity. However, we cannot celebrate cultural differences without addressing ongoing violence and oppression. Heritage months are also a reminder that we still have work to do to ensure justice and equity for all people in the US.

One way to address ongoing violence and oppression is by simply acknowledging the ongoing challenges faced by the group and announcing and/or reminding people of what action the organization is taking to address these challenges and ensure equity within and beyond the organization. For example, AAPI Heritage Month can be a great time to launch an AAPI employee resource group (ERG) or a mentorship program that focuses on sponsoring AAPI employees.

  1. Be consistent

As I noted before, all DE&I work takes commitment. Leaders and organizations need to be disciplined and consistent in celebrating all people of all identities throughout the year. Once you start celebrating heritage months, a new expectation will be formed among those who matter to you. For example, if you publicly acknowledge AAPI Heritage Month this year, the Indigenous people within your organization or among your customer base will expect you to acknowledge Native American Heritage Month in November as well.

Consistency also means that even when heritage months are over, your commitment to those communities should remain until the celebration of difference becomes a natural part of the organization’s culture.

  1. Avoid window-dressing.

Window-dressing is best understood as performative advocacy that does not pair with tangible action or the delivery of promises made. While making big promises and statements may feel right in the short-term, in the long run window-dressing further alienates marginalized groups and cultivates a toxic culture. Every statement or newsletter you push out makes implicit promises to those who matter to you. If you feel pressured to make a statement on a social issue without being prepared to follow through with real action, you are not ready to make that statement (yet).

Concluding Thoughts

The American identity was shaped collectively by a variety of races, ethnicities, backgrounds, and many other nuanced identity factors. And this is what makes the United States unique.

In the United States, we can hold pride in our uniqueness and in our diversity, while also holding and acknowledging the atrocities and injustice that are also core to this nation’s history.

This duality is also true for heritage months – heritage months come with opportunities and risks, enormous responsibility and tremendous potential. If done right, heritage months can help to lift the sense of otherness and alienation among marginalized groups and foster an inclusive culture in your organization.

On April 21, 2022, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia participated in the inaugural Global Brand Convergence, a free online experience for higher education students, faculty, and professionals around the world in public relations and marketing. Garcia participated in a panel discussion on “Crisis in an Enduring Pandemic,” alongside renowned communicator and crisis advisor Dr. Guanpeng (Steven) Dong.

Conceived by Jacqueline Strayer, the Global Brand Convergence was designed to connect and create a community to share ideas, innovations, and concepts to advance them in the classroom and in the profession. The inaugural event boasted more than 500 registered attendees from 50 countries and 54 colleges and universities.

In their session, Garcia and Dr. Dong discussed lessons learned from of how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled by the US and by China and several core principles and best practices in crisis response. Garcia and Dr. Dong have worked together in several capacities over the past 10 years, and in 2019 Dr. Dong was awarded the Logos Institute Outstanding Leader Award.

Watch the full panel discussion, moderated by Iliana Axiotiades here:

In addition to Garcia’s participation in the event, Logos Consulting Group was proud to be one of the sponsors for this annual event. To learn more about the Global Brand Convergence, visit https://www.globalbrandconvergence.com/.

In my first few years after coming to the United States from China, I was known and addressed by two names.

The first was my own name, Yinnan, given to me by my parents. The other was Iris, a name I gave myself for the ease of others in the United States – Starbucks staff, professors and classmates in graduate school, and other acquaintances.

How I introduced myself largely determined how I showed up in that space. Iris could superficially pass as an “American,” but Yinnan was an alien in this land. I reserved my true name only for those who I wanted to forge a genuine relationship with.

I juggled between the two identities for a long time. The process was mentally exhausting, but manageable. Until I faced a choice.

I was working at a three-person production shop and had been charged with reaching out to filmmakers on behalf of a film screening project. My work email was created under Yinnan, but I called myself Iris in the emails. I realized that the discrepancy might confuse people, especially if it was our first time connecting. It became clear that it was best for me to use only one name.

The question was, which one?

‘Yinnan’ is authentic to my identity. But ‘Iris’ makes cross-cultural experiences and my career development much easier to manage. I consulted with my boss at that time, and he responded without thinking, “Why don’t you keep your Chinese name? We have one American, one Australian, and one Chinese at the firm. We’re literally from all over the world. Isn’t that cool?”

I was shocked by that answer. It had never occurred to me that being anything other than American could be “cool.” Since then, I have strictly used my real name.

It was only years later that I was able to decipher what that moment truly meant to me. It cracked open the shell I built around myself and gave me permission to welcome and show up as the person I truly am. My former boss may have forgotten about that interaction years ago, but I remember and will forever be grateful for it.

That is an example of a micro-affirmation and how powerful micro-affirmations can be.

Micro-affirmations are small positive messages that explicitly recognize and validate an individual and their identity. Researcher Mary Rowe, who studies micro-messages, described micro-affirmations as, “tiny acts of opening doors to opportunity, gestures of inclusion, and caring and graceful acts of listening.”

The complexity and enormity of what it takes to thoughtfully engage in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) work can be overwhelming, even for the most devoted leaders and organizations taking on this work. Micro-affirmations can be a starting place for those seeking to create a more inclusive workplace.

Micro-affirmations are those expressions of empathy and appreciation, that little extra effort taken to understand and respect someone who may be different from you. While micro-affirmations matter to everyone, they are especially significant for groups and individuals who traditionally have been excluded or underrepresented. Micro-affirmations can affirm their value, something that has oftentimes been neglected or diminished. Like microaggressions, micro-affirmations can have a disproportionately large impact on an individual’s self-image and self-esteem.

Committing to these small daily acts of inclusion can send a powerful message throughout your organization. Micro-affirmations can be as simple as giving your undivided attention to someone speaking, being genuinely curious about and inviting other people to share their opinions, or asking a person to teach you how to pronounce their name if you’re not sure about the pronunciation.

When coming from leaders, micro-affirmations can also model inclusive behavior and explicitly communicate expectations for your team. For example, if a male employee has a tendency of interrupting his female colleagues in meetings, you can intervene when you witness this behavior and say, “I’m sorry, I want to hear what she has to say first.”

The rule of thumb within micro-affirmations is to be genuine. Inauthentic micro-affirmations can risk tipping over into microaggressions.

While small in comparison to other grandiose DE&I efforts, micro-affirmations can be a force multiplier in cultivating, modeling, and maintaining an inclusive workplace for leaders and organizations.

So, if you are wondering what you can do to advance DE&I in your organization or to simply to be a better ally to marginalized communities, consider starting with micro-affirmations.

To our clients, colleagues, and friends,

This week Logos Consulting Group begins our 20th year in operation. As we complete our 19th year, we want to take a moment to thank all of you for your support and confidence over the years.

We are blessed to have the opportunity to pursue our mission – to equip people to become leaders who ignite and inspire change in the world for the good – with hundreds of clients and thousands of people across the United States and the world.

As of this week, Logos has worked with 403 clients. Some have been our clients for decades, including before Logos was around. Some were clients only for a single project. Some are industry leaders, such as some of the largest money center banks, insurance companies, pharmaceutical and life sciences companies, industrial and manufacturing companies, and hospitality companies. Some are younger, smaller, and more entrepreneurial organizations. We’ve also worked with non-profits, cultural organizations, educational institutions, and religious and multi-religious institutions. And we’ve been honored to work with various branches and joint commands of the U.S. armed forces throughout this time.

We’ve also worked with clients where they are. In our 19 years (more precisely, the 17 ½ years before COVID), we have worked on the ground in 42 U.S. states and in 40 countries on five continents.

In our time we have been able to build out our three primary areas of practice: Crisis Management, Crisis Communication, and Executive Leadership Development. Over our 19 years, Logos team members, past and present, have authored or co-authored seven books (thirteen, if you include revised editions and translations). And through our publishing arm, we have published two books by non-Logos authors, with more on the way. And Logos team members served on graduate professional faculties, have been contract lecturers, and have been guest speakers in dozens of universities around the world.

The last 18 months have been difficult for many people and organizations, including Logos. But we are emerging stronger, better positioned to fulfill our mission and to find new ways to help leaders and the organization they run build competitive advantage and promote meaningful change.

I especially want to thank all those who worked at Logos in various capacities over the years: As staff, as interns, as consultants and business partners, as service providers. And to thank their families, who made their service possible.

We enter our 20th year with deep gratitude, with humility, and with enthusiasm. Here’s to the next 20 years….

And What Businesses Can To to Create An Inclusive Culture

 

I have an uncommon, un-American-looking name.

Many people whom I’ve met in person multiple times in a professional setting have never remembered or addressed me by my name. People often mispronounce my name without trying to figure out the correct pronunciation, or just choose to not engage with me at all to avoid embarrassment or discomfort. I used an English name when I was in graduate school, as did most of my Asian classmates, to make people’s lives easier. After graduation, I chose to keep only my Chinese name, knowing that in this choice may affect my career opportunities in future.

If you are Asia, Asian American, or Pacific Islander, you may recognize this struggle; the system is not designed for us to have both cultural identities and opportunities at the same time.

Because of the model minority myth, the false perception of universal acceptance and success of Asians and Asian Americans who bear few traumatic racial struggles, we are extra pressured to prove our worthiness. We’re constantly in the mindset that respect to us is earned not given. We are told if we want to earn respect and a place in American society, we need to keep our head down, be quiet, and work hard. We think if we can blend into the mass, one day we will belong. This myth feeds the need to over-assimilate into the mainstream culture, to sacrifice our cultural identity in exchange for acceptance and thereby success in American society.

When it comes to the workplace, this over-assimilation is a lot more specific, amplifying the onus on us to adapt, from accent to the way you speak up at a meeting to the pop culture or football reference you’re expected to make a comment on over water-cooler conversations.

The rise in anti-Asian sentiment coupled with Asian Heritage month has deflected attention from another troubling issue: Anti-Asian sentiment in the workplace.

 

The Asian Woman Experience

 

The challenges facing Asian and Asian American people in general become extra challenging when dealing with the intersectionality of being an Asian woman.

Asian women have been historically sexualized and exotified in the western culture. People, particularly men, expect Asian women to be docile, sexy, and nice. Anything other than that becomes a threat. This stereotype makes it extremely hard for Asian women to build professional relationships in the workplace – workplaces that most of the time are dominated by white men. It is dehumanizing and degrading when you realize the man across the table has no interest at all at your intellect or your industry insights; that they see you only as a young Asian woman, which is more or less an object.

The onus is again on us, Asian women, to dress more conservatively and to carry ourselves with more assertiveness and an extra level of professionalism in order to be taken seriously.

Asian women blog post-Yinnan

Image Source: NBC News; Getty Images

What Businesses Can Do to Create A More Inclusive Workplace

 

Culture change will be the key. And the culture change needs to come from the top. As we see more and more diversity initiatives taking place across the country, we must not forget about inclusion, which is a connected but separate process. Diversity is focused on representation; inclusion is focused on the actual experience of your employees and the way people’s identities and opinions are valued in the workplace. Diversity will die in a workplace without inclusion, because your “diverse hires” will feel miserable and leave, wasting your effort and resources in the long run.

Business leaders have a responsibility to model to create an inclusive work environment, where resources are equally distributed, and where all people are treated with respect and valued as who they are. If you don’t intentionally include, you will unintentionally exclude. Once an inclusive culture is in place, everything else follows, such as productivity, morale, creativity, collaboration, and so on.

There is also an additional need for inclusivity right now. As ideologies in the United States have become deeply polarized and many ethnic cultures have been politicized and weaponized, it takes so much energy for people outside the dominant culture to check their identity at the door when they come into work. An inclusive workplace opens a door for necessary learning and honest conversations. It makes people in marginalized groups feel like they can be heard and that they can bring their whole self to work.

Given the rising anti-Asian sentiment, organizations and leaders need to show care to their Asian American employees, building understanding and advocating for solidarity during and beyond AAPI Heritage Month. Reach out to the Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders on your team to offer genuine support. There are many ways to do this, such as hosting a town hall meeting or facilitated conversations that invite Asian and Asian America employees to share their experiences and stories.

Avoid is silence or window-dressing. Silence can be perceived as indifference, which is the single biggest predictor of loss of trust. Window-dressing describes performative advocacy that does not set aside proper resources to deliver on promises made. Window-dressing may feel good in the moment, but further alienates marginalized groups and cultivates a toxic culture in the long run. Every statement or newsletter you push out makes implicit promises to those who matter to you. If you feel pressured to make a statement on a social issue without being prepared to walk the talk, I’d suggest you not make the statement.

Asian experience post-Yinnan

What else can business leaders do to support their Asian American friends and colleagues who are facing discrimination in the workplace or on the street?

Stand in solidarity – with the Asian community, with the black community, with the Latino community, with the indigenous community, with the LGBTQIA community…

The systems of oppression and hate that we face thrive off our division. White supremacy relies on each of our communities that have been oppressed to fight alone and to fight against one another. But when all those who face oppression and our allies stand together, when we fight for one another instead of against each other, when we lift up each other’s struggles rather than tear down and compare our struggles, when we recognize that, as Emma Lazarus said, “until we are all free none of us is free,” we have a chance to make the dream of a better, freer, more just country a reality.