If you’re going to have diverse people in your workplace, you have a responsibility to to build inclusion. Period.
This starts with recognizing 3 things:
Once you’ve recognized these 3 things, you can move forward with sincere efforts toward inclusion. If you don’t believe these 3 things to be true, your efforts at inclusion — no matter how well intended or planned — will fail.
Building a culture of inclusion is hard work. It takes deliberate, continuous effort and a lot of difficult conversation. We’ve been taught that work isn’t the place for this kind of activity. We think if we just focus on the success of our business and tell people all the things not to say to offend another person, it will all work out.
We spend the majority of our waking hours at work. We provide products and services to customers. If we’re not aware of our biases and equipped with strategies to overcome them, we are going to say or do something to cause offense. And in these times, that could be both dangerous and costly to the business’s reputation and profitability.
If you don’t want that, you have to create an inclusion strategy that is more than just annual discrimination and harassment training with a litany of all the inappropriate things not to say. You have to do more than just hire and promote People of Color, Women and others who aren’t in the typical power structures. You have to make sure they have appropriate voice.
White, Male, Christian, Wealthy, Young, Able-Bodied, Hetero-Sexual humans tend to dominate in workplaces because our structures empower them thru privilege. The more categories a person fits into within these 7, the more privilege they have and the more they will be naturally vocal over and naturally regarded positively by others. Even if the person is a jerk, they will be listened to more than someone who fits into few or none of these categories.
As managers and Human Resources professionals, we have responsibility to make sure the people who fit into these categories are not the only ones consistently heard. We have to make sure those on our teams who don’t fit into these categories aren’t drowned out.
This takes finesse because the last thing you want to do as a manager is make a Person of Color or Woman uncomfortable by calling upon them to speak. It points out that they are not in these categories. It can also make the person feel like they are now speaking for their group. This is just as bad as not allowing them to be part of the conversation in the first place.
Here are some tips to create more inclusive conversations in your workplace:
These are the steps that will help you make sure all the voices on your teams are heard and have the greatest opportunity to feel included. If you do not actively manage this, you will end up with a diverse but disgruntled workforce where microaggression and discrimination continues to be the norm.
Let’s stop normalizing supremacy and patriarchy. Let’s do the hard work and help ensure marginalized voices are included and centered.