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Employee resource groups can undermine worker-led change

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Good morning! Welcome back to our workplace newsletter where we share the latest tips, tools and insights to help you stay informed about the modern workplace. Starting this week you will receive the Workplace newsletter in your inbox twice a week — on Tuesdays and Fridays. Today: the pitfalls of employee resource groups, the return of international business travel, and how employees are holding companies accountable.

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—Amber Burton, Reporter (twitter | email)

The Big Picture

Some ERGs are not the employee resource they promise to be

Tech companies are often quick to point to employee resource groups as an example of how seriously they take inclusion. Sometimes, however, ERGs can undermine the efforts of real worker-led change at a company.

Conversations with eleven former and current ERG members, a union organizer and a labor lawyer paint a complex picture of ERGs — one that shows how these groups can sometimes function as a safe space for employees with similar backgrounds but can also do little to affect real change in the workplace. And, in some cases, workers say companies can use ERGs against them and ultimately undermine union efforts.

At GitHub, for example, one ERG leader felt like the executives at the company wanted him to be a mole and spy on his fellow Black co-workers.

  • "There were plenty of times during the end where I was treated as a mole," Jared Jones, one of the co-founders of the Blacktocats ERG at GitHub, told Protocol. "The leadership team would ask me, 'Hey, what's going on with the Black folks? Give us the inside scoop. You need to tell us when they're disgruntled. You need to tell us when things are awry.' They were basically treating me — I'm not going to use any pejorative terms here — but that was a very frustrating component of the end of my time [at the ERG]."

Online map company Mapbox has used ERGs as a union-busting talking point, according to Hazel Court, an employee at the company.

  • "As companies often do when they have a union drive going on, they will talk about these initiatives that they had been thinking about doing before the union drive was known in order to say they're working on things and things will get better if you vote no," Court said. "And that was talked about at Mapbox."

Ultimately, some find value in both ERGs and unions. Mayuri Raja, the equity committee chair at the Alphabet Workers Union and member of a few ERGs at Google, said: "ERGs and union organizing are just two different tactics. They attack different parts of the problem."

  • "To me, [ERGs are] more about mitigating the problem whereas to me, union organizing is more about preventing the problem," she said. "I think the problem with ERGs and where they run into issues is ERGs are funded by the company, so anything you do kind of has to get the company's approval. You have to get the red stamp of approval."

— Megan Rose Dickey (twitter | email)

Work Spot

The return of international business travel?


On Monday, President Biden announced that the U.S. would lift its international travel restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers in November. The restrictions were originally put in place at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 by the Trump administration, and prohibited people from flying to international conferences or annual meetings they might have attended in the past. The news has led some to believe the lifting of restrictions will spark a return to international business travel. In 2020, global business travel expenses dropped by 52%, according to McKinsey & Company. A large part of the decline was attributed to the government-imposed restrictions. Some experts say they expect to see an increase in business travel by the first quarter of 2022.

A MESSAGE FROM ZOOM

Zoom is for you. From meetings, chat, phone, and webinars to conference rooms and events, Zoom powers all your communication needs. Zoom for Government, our separate, U.S.-based platform, offers the same Zoom experience but with the specialized security controls and certifications required by the U.S. government.

Learn more

Today's Tips & Tool

Slouching toward inbox zero

One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is that we will return to the emails we mark with a star or flag. The sad truth is those messages frequently sink into the murky abyss of our dreaded email inboxes (thank you for allowing me to use my creative writing degree for a second). Today we're looking at how to keep those flagged emails at the forefront of your mind and inbox. While this tip might seem obvious, some of us forget how easily this can prevent important emails from disappearing. Here's how to do so in two of the most common workplace inboxes: Microsoft Outlook and Gmail.

Outlook:

  • Grouping your flagged emails in Outlook is simply a matter of filtering and sorting.
  • Go to the top of your inbox. Click the filter and sort icon — an inverted triangle made up of three little lines in the most updated version of the desktop app. Then select "flagged." You can then choose to sort by "Flag Start" or "Due Date" depending on what version of Outlook you have. This will also allow you to turn your flagged emails into a to-do list for the day.
  • Shortcut: Just click the little pin icon next to the flag in any email to pin all your important emails to the top of your inbox for easy access.

Gmail:

  • For Gmail, it all starts in settings. Go to the little round settings icon in the top corner of your inbox.
  • Once in settings, look for inbox types. Select "Starred First."

By The Numbers

Would you report your employer?

Many workers say they would report their employers for not abiding by President Biden's mandate that companies with over 100 employees require COVID-19 vaccination or weekly testing. Blind, an anonymous social platform for the workplace, found in a survey of over 5,000 professionals that many people are willing to hold their employers accountable to the new rule. Here are the takeaways:

  • 46% of professionals in the U.S. said they'd report their company if they did not check for COVID-19 vaccination status or test employees on a weekly basis.
  • Out of all industries represented in the survey, workers at tech companies were the most likely to say they'd report their company. Bank employees were among the least likely to say they'd do so.
  • Overall, 76% of workers who responded to the survey said they support President Biden's mandate.

A MESSAGE FROM ZOOM

Zoom is for you. From meetings, chat, phone, and webinars to conference rooms and events, Zoom powers all your communication needs. Zoom for Government, our separate, U.S.-based platform, offers the same Zoom experience but with the specialized security controls and certifications required by the U.S. government.

Learn more

Around the Internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

  • A group of Google employees have signed a petition asking the company for back pay for temporary workers who have been underpaid for years.
  • Earlier this year WeWork announced it would allow companies to pay for office space with cryptocurrency. Last week, fintech company Revolut became the first to do so.
  • A tweet to ponder: How are you locking down competitive job candidates with multiple offers?

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com. Have a great week, see you Friday.

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