10 Ways Inspired Leaders Can Create a More Inclusive Workplace
An inclusive workplace is a critical component to individual as well as corporate well-being. But did you know being ostracized, or excluded, at work can be more harmful than bullying? How can we explain this confusing dichotomy?
When we are ostracized we are, essentially, ignored. We feel left out, invisible and therefore detached from our workplace. When we are bullied, despite the attack we feel on our psychological safety, at least we are acknowledged by our leaders or colleagues. Both practices, however, do little to create an optimistic workplace.
Toxic behaviors such as gossiping, information hoarding and ostracism create divisions among teams and threaten our sense of safety. As social psychologist Abraham Maslow describes in his studies on human motivation, toxic behaviors also target our basic need to belong. Biologically, our brains respond to perceived environmental stress by releasing stress hormones which impact our ability to process information and make sound decisions.
Great Place to Work has studied workplace culture for the last thirty years. Their research points to “caring” or a sense of belonging as one of the most important elements of a productive workplace.
We asked the young entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young leaders, what they do as leaders to create an inclusive workplace.
1. Celebrate Holidays as a Team
Though our entire team works remotely, we’ve found one cool way to support diversity is through our holiday schedules. If a particular team member celebrates a major religious holiday, we try to accommodate that by making it a holiday (day off) for the entire staff. So far that’s worked really well: Everyone is comfortable sharing their diversity, feels appreciated, and we all celebrate!
2. Connect People Through Food
We have a very diverse team from different parts of the world. I believe in deepening connection through common interests, and what better connection than over some good food? On each of our employee’s birthday, I treat the whole team at an ethnic restaurant of that employee’s choice. This way they get to let people know about the food they eat daily and their culture.
– Nikhil Choudhary, Zenith Engineers Inc
3. Encourage Team Members to Get to Know Each Other as Individuals
I have a diverse, multicultural team, and I encourage team members to learn more about each other outside their titles and job descriptions. It’s interesting how each employee brings a fresh look at our challenges and issues. We’re able to collaborate and really listen to each other because we’ve developed deeper relationships than mere coworkers. Inclusion is a big part of how we operate.
4. Take Daily Walks with Other Team Members
We strongly encourage team members to take daily walks with three to five other team members. We encourage them to walk with different people each day so they get to know different departments and team members. This helps build inclusion of every team member as well as helps everyone to get to know each other on a personal level. It has almost doubled productivity over the past year.
5. Organize Cultural Events
To promote understanding and deepen the connection we have as a team, we do social events as a company around any specific cultural event representative of someone on the team. By participating in these activities, anyone on our team can introduce us to their culture, and we get a better sense of what it means to them. These have turned out to be a great way to encourage closeness.
6. Hold Monthly “Lightning Talks”
Every month we have lightning talks where employees present on topics of their choice. Although we are a software company, these talks don’t just focus on tech but also include cultural diversity. One employee gave us a quick session on five languages he knew and another talked about the history behind her culture. These were insightful and gave us all a better understanding of those around us.
7. Get People In and Then Make Sure You listen to Them
The first hurdle in promoting diversity and inclusion is to make sure people of all different creeds, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, etc., are represented in my workplace. Then, once they are there, I ensure we take advantage of diverging perspectives and value all the voices and opinions of my people, regardless of role. This is known as cognitive inclusion.
8. Live the Company’s Mission and Core Values
We do our best to live our mission and core values every day. For example, our team at the café in Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station — one of the busiest in the city — put a sign up about accepting people from all walks of life. It gained high media attention for its positive message. More than that, it exemplified what we strive for: to accept, not reject, idiosyncrasies and differences.
9. Build Inclusion Through a Diversity and Inclusion Group
At Wistia, a number of our employees participate in a group called “Diverstia.” They dedicate time every week to promote inclusion and diversity in the workplace by putting on special events and bringing in speakers so employees and visitors at Wistia feel welcome and valued no matter their background.
10. Locate Your Office in a Diverse City
Being located in Miami already makes our workplace very diverse. Miami is one of the cities where its population consists of people from 20 or more countries. It’s very diverse. In particular, our team likes to try out local ethnic restaurants to get more acquainted with a certain country and its food. Miami has a wide variety of cuisines that makes trying out new foods a pleasure.