Inclusion at Work: How to Find and Promote It

Learn how to find and enact inclusion at work!

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Inclusion at work is a hot topic right now. Unfortunately, while most employees know what exclusion looks like, it’s harder to define how to be inclusive. But, it’s really important that you and others feel included if you want to hit your full potential. So, how do you find inclusive environments and act inclusively yourself? Read below for some tips from recent research on this topic!

Safe Spaces are Key for Inclusion

It might sound like common sense, but it’s really important that workplaces are comfortable and safe places for employees to express their thoughts. Psychological safety is a concept that has been around for a long time. It is a shared belief that the workplace is safe for interpersonal risk taking. That means that, if someone has an idea or a concern about the way something is going, they feel they can raise that issue without facing consequences.

When teams are not psychologically safe, people cut new ideas down and punish those who bring concerns to light. So, if you want to find an inclusive environment, notice whether or not people feel comfortable speaking up or if the same few people do most of the talking. If you want to create these spaces, make it clear that you want to hear from everyone and be encouraging when others share ideas or bring problems to light.

Inclusion takes commitment
Inclusion takes commitment from everyone – but it’s worth it!

Sharing in Resources and Decision-Making Drives Inclusion

Employees don’t feel like they are a part of a team if they are unable to access information they need to do their jobs. Further, those who are unable to see how their opinions drive decisions that are made on the job are likely to feel excluded. If your team has “cliques” where people hide information from one another, this is a surefire way to decrease inclusivity. If team members are too siloed, they may not have opportunities to share information. This might create more loneliness and less belongingness at work. In other words, information and resources need to be readily available to all.

Additionally, if decisions are only made behind closed doors, employees are likely to feel shut off. If you’re looking for an inclusive workplace, ask questions about how and when people communicate. Transparency is important – pay attention to how open and honest people are with one another. How are decisions that affect employees made? If you are trying to promote inclusion, try to share information with with others when you can and role model openness regarding your decision-making processes. If you show others the way, you can start to impact the team overall.

Showing You Respect and Value Others is Crucial

Inclusion can’t happen in a culture of disrespect. Respect is extremely important for communicating value to others. It’s important that organizations show that they value employees as a whole. It’s also important that coworkers show that they value the unique skills that each person brings to the table. If you are looking for a respectful workplace, pay attention to whether or not the company listens to and takes seriously the opinions of its employees.

It might also help to look at the rewards and recognition programs that the company has. The amount of money spent on these programs isn’t as important as their visibility and the extent to which there are opportunities to recognize others as being great performers. If you want to promote inclusion, try making it a point to tell one coworker that you value a particular skill they have each day. Or you might try to ask for input from others before making decisions. If employees feel valued, they will work smarter and harder.

Inclusion and respect
Inclusion and respect go hand in hand – you can’t have one without the other!

Emphasizing Authenticity and Diversity Is Necessary for Inclusion

Finally, it’s extremely important to show employees that they can feel free to be who they are at work. This goes hand in hand with a commitment to diversity. Retaining individuals who have varied experiences and backgrounds makes the workplace richer. However, this is only true if people feel comfortable being themselves. Authentic acceptance from others is really important for making sure that employees are happy and healthy at work. We have talked about the value of equity at work before. When people feel that they can be themselves, without facing consequences (within professional bounds of course!), employees and companies thrive.

In your own company, look around and see how open and honest people are about their personal lives or identities. Do you know a lot of sexual orientation or gender identity minorities? Religious minorities? If you don’t, it’s probably not because there aren’t any present. It’s likely because they don’t feel comfortable being authentic in that work space. If you want to promote inclusion, focusing on recruiting from different places than you usually do might get a greater diversity of candidates in the pipeline. Ensuring that everyone has been trained or taking time to educate your team on the value of diversity can also be important.

If you’re looking for an inclusive environment, pay attention to the signals the company is sending. Is management and leadership diverse? Do they have a robust diversity training program? Are the folks you would be working with representative of the larger population – and are they happy? If you can find a diverse, dynamic environment where people seem to be genuine, you have probably found an inclusive workplace.

Is your workplace inclusive? How do you know? Have you taken steps to enhance inclusion at work? Let us know your tips below!

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