Workplace inclusion is not a static, one-off service act. It is an ever-evolving experience that requires the contribution of every employee – regardless of their level of seniority in the organization – to make each other feel like a partner. To improve inclusion in your environment, form and regularly practice these seven inclusive behaviors until they become habitual and automatic. Starting with these small actions will enable you to change the level of inclusion in your team.
Helping to increase inclusivity in your workplace does not necessarily require a broad DEI campaign. It also doesn’t require you to be in a position of power. Each of us can decide to be a co-worker and take small actions every day to improve our workplace culture.
By making small changes in your own behavior, you can be creative disproportionate positive effects of your colleagues’ workplace experience. Just like small deposits that earn interest in a long-term savings account, your actions have big effects in the longer term. The key is to identify behavioral changes that you can make over and over again and create habits to make them automatic.
Inclusion within an organization means accepting and valuing the talents and qualities of each partner — without imposing or conforming. When this happens, not only are employees happier at work, but the organization benefits from their unique insights and increases productivity.
Here are seven small actions you can take to be a better partner and help promote a comfortable and safe work environment for everyone.
1. Highlight the contributions of others.
Job visibility allows individuals to demonstrate their abilities, be recognized by decision makers, and build relationships. Research proves that the contributions of poor groups, such as Asian minorities in Western countries, are systematically ignored.
Identify a high-ability colleague who may be visually impaired and promote their achievements by publicly recognizing their contributions and encouraging them to speak and present at meetings.
2. Use your pronouns.
Including your pronouns when you introduce yourself in meetings is a small action that signals that you are an ally to colleagues who may find it difficult to express that they are often referred to by pronouns they do not recognize. This also normalizes the practice for your other colleagues.
3. Use gender-inclusive language.
Research shows that using gender-inclusive language in the workplace is associated with better well-being for LGBTQ-identifying employees, so make sure the language you use is gender-neutral. For example, using “people” instead of “men” makes everyone feel included.
4. Check your vocabulary.
Many common slang words have other connotations or origins and should be avoided. For example, the word “lame” is often used to describe something boring or monotonous, but it was originally used to refer to individuals with mobility impairments. Similarly, the common use of the terms “tribalism” or “tribal mindset” to describe out-group behavior is based on a racial stereotype of Indigenous people during the colonial era. Actively check your vocabulary for slang words that set others apart.
5. Celebrate with your colleagues.
A diverse workplace is made up of people from different backgrounds who celebrate different holidays, whether they are religious (like Eid for Muslims) or historical (like Pride or Black History month). Enabling others to celebrate these occasions and participate in organized activities is a wonderful way to express individualism. Even better, celebrating these occasions with your colleagues can go a long way in making them feel accepted and boosting their morale, in addition to building psychological safety.
6. Be creative about team bonding.
While putting together team bonding activities, factor in the availability and interest of all your team members. If every social event is a night out in a pub, this may prevent some carers, parents, remote workers, and people who don’t drink alcohol from participating. Instead, consider activities like virtual coffee chats, volunteer work, and online games like Pictionary or trivia. Making sure everyone participates in as many team activities as possible helps the team really bond and have fun.
7. Be curious.
Schedule coffees and lunches with colleagues from different backgrounds than you. Without interfering, take an interest in their lived experience inside and outside the office. Use what you’ve learned to take additional small actions to take as a partner.
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Workplace inclusion is not a static, one-off service act. It is an ever-evolving experience that requires the contribution of every employee – regardless of their level of seniority in the organization – to make each other feel like a partner. To promote inclusion in your environment, form and regularly practice inclusive behaviors until they become habitual and automatic. Starting with these small actions will enable you to change the level of inclusion in your team.