Everyone has a part to play in fostering diversity and inclusion. Modern businesses can’t function optimally without the unique perspectives and experiences that diversity and inclusion can provide.
Diversity and inclusion is a hot topic in today’s world, especially discussed in regard to corporate culture. As firms learn to embrace diverse talent, it’s important that employees understand how to make their colleagues feel comfortable as well.
While your coworkers may be different than you in more ways than one, it’s essential to remember that a diverse team is more likely to produce novel ideas and a positive work environment for everyone involved.
1. Evaluate How You Express Yourself
Think about your word choice when you communicate. Misunderstandings arise when words are misused. Avoid using terms like “guys,” “ladies,” or “dudes” to introduce yourself to your team, primarily if you work with people who don’t identify as either gender. This could cause misinterpretations and isolate some members of the group.
Be calm, listen, and give other people a chance to talk and express themselves. Be considerate of the other person’s time by listening without interrupting or monopolizing the conversation. Remember that others also may have anxiety when it comes to speaking in groups of people. It is good practice to also ask questions such as “does anyone else have suggestions?” in order to encourage others who may be looking for an opportune time to join the conversation.
Think about how you intend to approach the problem. If you know that talking about inclusion makes a particular person uncomfortable, try to present the topic in a way that a person can understand. Treat individuals and groups fairly, considering their specific traits rather than generalizations.
2. Use Appropriate Pronouns and Adjust When Requested
People’s preferred pronouns are not always apparent based on their outward appearance or presentation of gender. Asking is the simplest option but using gender-neutral pronouns is an excellent alternative if that’s not possible.
One way to avoid leaving anyone out of a group conversation is to address them by name and use the person’s preferred pronoun. That way, nobody will be singled out or treated differently because of their preferred address method. It’s OK to ask someone again what pronoun they prefer if you’ve forgotten or aren’t sure. When compared to incorrectly identifying their gender, that is an improvement.
Our advisor Jacqui Wilmshurst has always urged us to “Stay curious,” adding that we should inquire further about the identity of anyone who does so. This way, you can avoid assuming anything.
3. Adapt Communication to Support Written Communication
Compared to talking on the phone, many neurodivergent people would communicate via written means, such as email or text chat. There is time to think about how to respond, and there is a record of what was said in written communication, so it is easy to refer to.
However, written communication requires the same clarity and conciseness as verbal exchanges. “Let’s go over this later” and “I need this done ASAP” are common expressions, but they can confuse neurodivergent people. When you say “later,” how soon are you referring to? What time frame are we talking about when we say “ASAP”? Instead, use more precise time expressions like “let’s talk about this when we meet at 3 pm” or “this needs to be done by noon.”
Additionally, the use of unnecessary filler words and phrases such as “actually” or “to be honest” can dilute the clarity of your message. In emails and other written communications, it is essential to emphasize essential information at the outset. Use subheadings and bullet points or numbers to organize your text.
4. Promote the Ideas of Others
It may seem like every person is for themselves in the office because of the inherent competitiveness of the workplace. True inclusivity involves prioritizing the group’s success over individual achievements. It’s important to highlight the work of others rather than just promoting your own ideas and efforts.
Did a colleague make a fantastic suggestion in a team meeting, but you feel they weren’t given due consideration? Reintroduce the topic by saying, “I thought Mike’s idea was interesting, and I think we should revisit that…”. Not only will this make coworkers feel more included in the conversation, they’ll be much more likely to contribute again in the future.
Does that mean you always have to be a cheerleader and get no credit for your own contributions? Not really. While speaking up for yourself is essential, making a conscious effort to uplift the people close to you is just as important.
5. Connect with Someone New
There’s no need for a heroic effort to make things more welcoming and tolerant. Making eye contact with someone you have talked to in passing before is one way to start a conversation that could lead to deeper and more meaningful interactions.
For instance, switch seats to sit with someone new within company-wide meetings. Talk to a new person about lunch suggestions or for advice on your project. Reach out to someone you don’t know well and set up a time to have coffee together. Schedule a conversation with a colleague in an adjacent department to get to understand them and their role a bit better. These are all great ways to build relationships within your organization and make others feel welcome.
Office cliques can quickly form, and divisions get created, so it’s essential to show that you’re willing to branch out and make friends with people from different departments and divisions.
6. Respond from Your Personal Experience
Use phrases like “in my opinion” or “according to my experience” when contributing to a discussion. Be careful not to discredit the ideas of others. Even if you disagree, acknowledging this point is crucial to maintaining civil discourse.
Try phrases like “That’s a different perspective,” “I see your point of view,” and “I never thought of it that way” when you hear an idea that seems different from your own. Again, this keeps everyone’s voice heard. Don’t forget to enable audience participation through question-and-answer-style discussion.
7. Consider Religious Dietary Restrictions
Workplace diversity encompasses people of different genders, races, and nations, as well as those of other faiths. Many positive outcomes can result from having a workforce representing a wide range of religious traditions.
Consider the food allergies and intolerances of those who will attend your event so that you can be a more welcoming colleague, manager, or host. Some faiths have strict rules against ingesting particular foods, while others prohibit combining certain foods or consuming an allowed food in an unspecified manner. To avoid offending anyone, a wide variety of food is available at each meal.
8. Don’t Pressure Anyone to Be a Culture Fit
Culture fit is often misunderstood and can lead to a biased hiring process. Workers of all stripes face the problem of being evaluated and let go based on their “cultural fit.” Culture fit should not be about finding people who are “the same” or shunning people who don’t fit the mold. True inclusivity involves celebrating and valuing each team member’s unique qualities, rather than forcing them all to conform to a single ideal. Neurodiverse people need to be given a chance to succeed; given that chance, they will ‘fit’ in with the rest of the company.
The Final Word
Empathy and respect are essential for workplace inclusion. It is vital to ensure that everyone’s voices are heard and carefully considered in order to be more inclusive. By taking the steps outlined in this blog post, you demonstrate your openness and interest in hearing about ideas and experiences that differ from yours.
Inclusion at work is a huge issue. In this case, making change isn’t as scary as it sounds. Some of the minor efforts, habits, and changes you take can make the most significant difference for true inclusivity, including increased opportunities for cross-cultural understanding.