10 things we can all do to be more inclusive
We hear every day of workplace micro-aggressions which can oppress and exclude so here are 10 things we can all do to be more inclusive
We hear every day of workplace micro-aggressions that cumulatively mount up to become oppressive and exclusionary. And yet the behaviours that can be so damaging are very easy to fix and within the grasp of all of us. They are also all free.
It is completely possible for us all to role model inclusive behaviours so they become embedded in the corporate or team culture, and are not just an employer branding slogan.
But we still hear about colleagues who are routinely ignored, excluded from meetings, social events and lunches, or kept out of the loop about career development programmes. And others who experience deliberate discrimination, incivility and aggression.
10 things we can all do to be more inclusive
1. Use positive body language – smile and make eye contact
Some of the most harmful and excluding micro-aggressions come from poor body language. Sometimes it’s intentional, often times it’s not. This isn’t about women being required to smile all the time, but about appropriate social and professional interaction. To exclude one person or group of people, or to treat them differently can be a form of bullying and even discrimination.
There is one point of attention, some neurodiverse indivduals struggle with eye contact and in some Asian cultures it could even be consided rude.
The quote “We all smile in the same language” should resonate.
2. Thank and show appreciation
There is a science behind expressing gratitude, giving recognition, and showing appreciation. It stimulates the neural circuitry in our brain (stem) and releases dopamine. The process triggers positive emotions, we feel optimistic, and it contributes to building team spirit and strong interaction.
Yet lack of recognition, appreciation, and feeling valued is listed as one of the main reasons for people leaving their jobs in 2022. Clearly, we all need to do more of it. Research also shows that when gratitude is expressed publically everyone involved feels uplifted.
It’s the equivalent of a big group hug.
3. Encourage effort
Encouragement is a powerful practice. When you encourage someone to explore an idea, pursue a specific goal or follow through with an action it fosters self-belief and contributes to unlocking their potential. Sharing a few words of encouragement personally or in a message costs absolutely nothing and has enormous benefits. It also opens up possibilities for further dialogue and discussion on any concerns which helps establish trust and cement relationships.
4. Check-in, not check on
This is a great phrase I picked up during lockdown. How many times do we ask someone how they are and don’t hang around long enough for the answer? Finding out how your colleagues, bosses and reports really are is important. It’s not that they are physically there and perhaps getting on with the job at hand, but what is really going on for them behind the scenes.
Frequently it is more than we imagine.
5. Invite and include
Be sure to invite everyone to the right meetings, to participate in projects where they can add value and even have vital conversations. As we get back to in-person networking – remember to be inclusive. If you have a remote team member make sure they are invited to contribute, preferably first. Proximity bias is real.
Look out for the introverts or neurodiverse who hold back and the extroverts who may dominate the conversation. Perhaps it may be someone who may not be fluent in the common language or another one with a physical disability. Being mindful and considerate creates an inclusive environment to give a better understanding of different perspectives and experiences.
6. Be present
And lose the phone when you are talking to someone. One of the biggest barriers to inclusion is our relationship with your cell phone. Walking around with a mobile phone in your hand, with alerts pinging away sends a message that there is potentially something more important going on “out there ” and you are not fully present.
Research from the University of Essex suggests that interactions without a cell phone literally at hand, fosters “closeness, connectedness, interpersonal trust, and perceptions of empathy” — the foundation of any relationship.
The opposite clearly applies.
7. Ask quality questions
Asking the right questions to get the right answers has been a long-standing best practice. But we can all have a tendency to make sweeping statements or ask loaded questions filled with blame
“Tell me what happened…” NOT “How the hell did you let that happen”
Asking how you can help someone (if that is feasible) or what support they need also adds value and reduces feelings of isolation.
8. Listen without judgement
Assuming positive intent means choosing to believe the best of people and trusting that they have good intentions. It means suspending assumptions and judgement until you have all the facts.
Closely linked to this is the ability to pause to manage stress and reflex emotions, with a need to jump in perhaps defensively, so you can respond constructively with empathy.
Worth downloading: How to Cultivate Empathy in the Workplace
9. Champion their work and let them be autonomous
Championing everyone for their achievements to enhance their careers is a vital component of an inclusive workplace, not just a few people you like. Perfectionism and therefore micro-management are two of the biggest barriers to working inclusively. It’s important to empower the people around you and allow them to work in an atmosphere of trust.
Make it safe for colleagues and reports to make mistakes, giving unbiased feedback so they can learn, and ensuring that all have the same access to career opportunities and network introductions. Being a champion is also being an ally. If you see a micro-aggression become an upstander not a bystander. Stage an intervention.
Worth a read: Can organisations have inclusion without diversity?
10. Call on them to speak up
Creating a safe and brave place where people feel comfortable and secure speaking up, is critical to psychological safety and an inclusive workplace. This also facilitates an environment where the calling out of poor behaviours or bias is normalised and acceptable and where people are visibly held accountable.
What will you do differently tomorrow?
Inclusion starts with “I” and it has to be intentional