You are “dis-ti-mi-mating!” (read discriminating), my little boy said, “cause you didn’t ask me!
I was aghast at that remark. The discussion was for the kind of curtains we may want in the kids’ room and I took turns asking my elder son and my husband but missed my younger one.
I realized, yes, no matter how small, life is an ongoing learning process. Preoccupied, casual, did not mean to, I know what you would say - none of the excuses worked. I had committed the sin of discrimination and left him out. In other words, I was not being “inclusive”.
Having spent nearly two decades working with a few organizations, I have seen many ideas floating around on how we encourage inclusivity. But first things first - what is inclusivity or an inclusive workplace, and why is it important? What’s so special about it?
Google and you come across many definitions. One thing common in these - they all agree that an inclusive workplace values individual differences and makes them feel welcome and accepted.
The second part of the question - why inclusivity - well, inclusive teams were 10 times more productive than their non-inclusive counterparts with a lesser likelihood of workers being harassed at work, more likely to have higher job satisfaction, and nine times more likely to innovate.
As you dwell deep, you find a plethora of information around this topic, but you would agree that each of us has our own unique personal experiences around this topic. And that’s where I thought of sharing some factors that helped me or shall I say “are helping me” continue to learn and be more intelligible about inclusivity.
Do not generalize
This reminds me of a personal story which I have till now repeatedly played in my mind, partially blaming myself for not being witty enough to respond, and partially thinking “why on earth do we not stop generalizing?”
It was a regular meeting with a Senior Manager in one of the companies I was working with. As he heard me say my name out loud, to my utter surprise, he remarked, “well, aren’t women from so and so place a little orthodox?”.
“OMG! Aren’t Senior Managers trained in being unbiased (if they naturally aren’t inclined to do so)” - I thought to myself!
To this day the episode sometimes haunts me. So, my first lesson to myself - Do not generalize. Yes, we all tend to do it, let's admit it. May be years of practice keeps it hidden under covers, which is why I suggest a daily self-reminder. I am sure you do not want the world to feel you are “dis-ti-mi-mating!”
Do not assume
“But you never said that!”. Working with multicultural members with different personalities, I learned my second lesson. While a few folks are clear in their articulations as well as high on the extrovert index of speaking their mind, many may not feel comfortable sharing their thoughts simply, “because you didn’t ask!”. Make it a point to ask.
Check with people on “how do they feel about that new process or what can be different in that new functionality?”. Ignorance may be bliss, but assumption can be a killer.
Be neutral while celebrating
“Merry Christmas with a Happy Diwali, Eid-Mubarak with a Baisakhi Vadaiyan” - We know how it feels if this delicate balance is tilted. Irrespective of the personal choices, feel great about all celebrations. After all there may be many schools of thoughts about traditions and cultures, but you are your own school and some new lessons will always be relevant.
Be the go-to person
Open more channels of communication. Are you a mentor by nature? Great! Then you have won half the battle. Why? It’s simple. When you are that warm person people feel happy to go to and talk, you have numerous topics to discuss, not necessarily work. This makes folks feel welcome and comfortable. Well, then again, there will always be a difference between how soon or fast that happens depending on the personality types you are talking to, but you will eventually get there - to that level of comfort. See the magic of this “open communication”?
I recall one women’s day celebration where we (women running a presentation) turned the tables and asked our audience - women from all backgrounds and beliefs to share their thoughts on what were some basic challenges they felt coming to work every day. We were surprised how comfortable the ladies were, thanks to our good networking and an open communication technique. We were fortunate to hear some insightful stories.
Talk about “successful surveys” - well, here is your best bet - “Talk to people”. The added benefit? Other than getting to know them you would know their expectation from you.
Be at the forefront, even if alone
It takes time for people to follow, yes, like I shared earlier, we have our own personal set of experiences. But, one thing that is common to us all, we must strive and live our ideas, for them to become acceptable. So, keep working towards what helps you. Be at the forefront of a cause that you believe in even if you are alone.
Don’t worry, people will follow
When your inner core believes in something, you automatically display those beliefs. That’s why you need to work on yourself first.
“I” must ensure that “I” count “inclusivity” as the highest.
My core value will join hands with that of my organization, my social circles, my country!
Oh well, as for the curtains in my kid’s room - imagine an all “inclusive” design of the “Avengers: Endgame” characters!