Inclusion as a habit
There are a lot of things you can do to boost the productivity of your employees. Creating time blocks for deep work, offering healthy meals and snacks in the office, or hosting virtual non-working events that allow remote workers to socialize are just a few examples you’ve probably heard before. But one area of workplace wellness often gets overlooked: Diversity and inclusion.
Employers have expressed an increasing interest in wanting to create a more diverse and inclusive space at work. However, actual change has been slow-moving. Workplace diversity and inclusion are not binary problems that can be solved with the flip of a switch. Bias and prejudice are a complex sum of beliefs and behaviors. In other words, they are habits.
But if there’s one thing we know here at Fabulous, it’s that habits aren’t set in stone. You can modify or replace them. All it takes is preparation and practice.
Here are four habits you can practice to make your workplace more inclusive.
1. Create Space For People
Vessy Tasheva said it best: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance. Belonging is being asked to vote on the party theme.” People are never going to feel like they belong unless you make it obvious that their presence is valued.
But there’s more to it than simply hiring diverse people, although that is one good approach. Here are just a few other ways you can create space for your employees:
- Learn everyone’s name and greet them by name.
- Prioritize welcoming new hires with solid onboarding and mentorship.
- Invite quieter individuals to offer their thoughts during meetings.
- Provide personalized support by checking in with 1:1 meetings.
At the end of the day, making sure everyone has the opportunity to be heard and respected will not only build team camaraderie, it will also open your workplace to a variety of new ideas and opinions.
2. Celebrate Everyone’s Achievements
Did you ever get a gold star sticker on a school assignment? It felt great, right? Positive reinforcement is the easiest way to motivate people. People want to feel as though what they do matters, so be sure to conscientiously and regularly remind them.
Of course, celebrating achievements can easily backfire if certain people or teams are ignored in favor of others. That’s why it’s vital to ensure that everyone at the company receives the recognition and appreciation they deserve.
These celebrations can be spontaneous, such as praising an employee for a quick project turnaround, but they don’t have to be. Imagine if, during weekly stand-ups, each team lead blocked out a minute or two to recognize the accomplishments of everyone on their team. What a great motivator that would be, especially for employees whose efforts are often overlooked!
3. Ask For—And Appreciate—Feedback
Asking for feedback can be a double-edged sword. What if nobody wants to offer any or, worse, you don’t like what you hear?
Receiving feedback and appropriately responding to it is a skill that takes practice to get right. If you ask for feedback, receive it, and then do nothing about it, you’re unlikely to get any valuable input going forward. Thank the person you ask. Ask follow-up questions to get a better understanding of what you can do to improve. Agree on a plan of action together. And, most importantly, hold yourself accountable and implement the feedback you receive.
It also helps to know how to ask for feedback to get specifically what you’re looking for. Make your intentions specific and clear: Don’t just ask “Do you have any feedback for me?” Instead, state the kind of feedback you’re looking for before asking for input. For example, if you’re worried that people leave your meetings unsure what they need to do next, you could ask: “I’m trying to improve how I communicate action items during meetings. What do you think I could do better?”
That is just one work-specific example but it shouldn’t be the only feedback you request. Seek out input on how to make your employees feel safer and more included.
4. Mind Your Biases
It’s an uncomfortable truth, but the human brain is wired for bias. Our minds will take what we learn and experience and create a mental shorthand to expedite future decisions and actions. This can be a good thing: If one of our ancestors encountered a tiger and was attacked, it would make sense to fear and avoid tigers going forward. But it can just as easily lead to inaccurate and unfair assumptions about our peers that can lead to a toxic work environment if not addressed.
Every person is unique and sees the world through a unique lens. Acknowledging the existence of this unique lens, and that other people will see the world differently, can help reduce defensiveness when exclusionary behaviors are brought to your attention.
Bring mindfulness to your interactions. Reflect on past conversations and ask yourself what you could have done better to lift up unheard voices. Note when you find yourself reacting or feeling defensive in the face of a negative bias. And, when you see the biases of others come to light in the form of microaggressions or outright prejudice, intervene and support those being excluded, either publicly or privately.
One way to do that is to simply ask the person being affected how you can best support them. You might think you know the best way to handle a situation but how you respond isn’t about you; it’s about the person suffering the microaggressions in the first place. If their needs aren’t prioritized, you may hurt more than you help.
Make Inclusion A Habit
Diversity and inclusion are admirable goals but achieving them requires daily practice. If you use the Fabulous app, you can add habits right into your daily routines as reminders to uphold that practice.
Fostering inclusion is not something that can be done passively. If you do not intentionally include, you will inevitably unintentionally exclude. But taking small steps, like practicing bias mindfulness and creating space for everyone to contribute, add up quickly to a safer and more effective workspace.
How do you encourage inclusivity at work? Share your tips with us!