Part V: Ongoing Staff Support
Staffing for Diversity Part V: Ongoing Staff Support
Staffing & Supervision

Over the past four months, we've used this Staffing for Diversity column to reflect on:

Now we turn our attention to ongoing support for a diverse staff.

Congregational Reflection

Deep conversation and ongoing education are necessary for any kind of diversity effort to be successful. With respect to staffing, in our August issue, we shared reflection questions offered by Taquiena Boston, UUA Director of Multicultural Growth and Witness, as adapted from a keynote delivered by Rev. Dr. Miguel De La Torre for the 2013 Mosaic Makers Conference. These bear revisiting:

  1. What are the vision and values that motivate our congregation to hire a diverse staff? 
  2. What kind of diversity is already present in our staffing? (Examples: sex, gender expression/gender identity, ability, age, sexual identity, race, ethnicity, education) 
  3. How might our congregational/community culture support attracting and retaining diversity in our staff leadership? How might our congregation/community need to change? What are we willing to sacrifice to achieve this goal? 

In addition to the questions above, once again we recommend: Centering: Navigating Race, Authenticity, and Power in Ministry, edited by Mitra Rahnema (Skinner House 2017). A downloadable discussion guid (PDF) is now available for this 2017-2018 UUA Common Read. Although the book focuses on religious professionals (primarily ministers) of color, their stories, challenges, and perspectives will help you strengthen your understanding and support of all of your staff and the diversity they bring.

Norms, Biases, and Assumptions

What norms are operating in your congregation - unwritten rules, patterns, or ways of being that you don't even notice because they are simply "part of the water you swim in"? Congregational norms aren't necessarily good or bad, but it's important to recognize them and to consider how they might make life easier for some staff members and harder for others. Adding to these organizational norms are biases and assumptions that you and other individuals might bring to your leadership. See if you can name things that are "just how it works" in your congregation, look at your own leadership with fresh eyes, and think about how these ways of being may impact staff of marginalized identities.

Pay special attention to assumptions and practices around finances and access. For instance, do you assume that staff can pay for expenses out of pocket and get reimbursed afterwards? (Always have an alternative process.) Do you expect staff to have the technology and circumstances that allow them to check email or do work from home? (What starts out as offering flexibility can slide into establishing an expectation.) Do staff take up collections for birthday gifts? Anything involving staff members' personal finances and home situations should be handled carefully.

Formal Processes and Practices

Your congregation provides direct support to staff through, among other things: compensation (salary and benefits), office space and setup, employment agreements and personnel policies, supervision, performance feedback, staff meetings, and staff team development. As your staff becomes more diverse and you become more intentional about your support, you're likely to notice ways that these systems and structures unduly favor some staff over others. Whatever your leadership role, we urge you to pay attention, to raise concerns, and to seek ways of strengthening the experience of staff of color and other staff who may experience marginalization. Your efforts can help dismantle systemic oppression in your congregation, in Unitarian Universalism, and in our society as a whole.

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