Fostering inclusive communications in a diverse workplace
Is it hard for you to talk with someone who thinks differently than you? Are there times when you want to speak up, but are worried about how co-workers will receive your message? Are you facing hidden biases—factors like upbringing, culture, the media, and your family and friends—that shape the way you think toward others?
You need a unique blend of bravery, vulnerability and courage to engage in conversations with those who have different opinions than your own. At work and in your community, it’s increasingly important to listen and understand the others’ points of view, even when you don’t agree with them. While it may seem easy to get upset and walk away, working through differences of opinion in a healthy way can be a positive learning experience for all.
Respecting differences and fostering inclusion
Our personal biases can lead to arguments or using unprofessional language, which may violate your company’s code of conduct. Even when you disagree with someone at work, be respectful of that person’s thoughts and opinions. Find things you have in common to reduce tension and lead to a healthier conversation.
Here are some other ways to foster inclusion:
- Identify biases. By identifying biases, you’ll be better able to notice them and correct them before they surface.
- ·Adjust how you speak. People who share similar cultures or backgrounds are not all the same. Avoid using language that implies everyone feels or thinks the same.
- Listen to others. When having a conversation, remove all distractions and listen fully to what the other person is saying. Don’t assume any hidden meaning or interrupt them with your opinion.
- Do some research. Educate yourself by reading about the challenges, prejudices and discriminations others face.
Inclusion can have a positive and productive impact on you and your team members. Listening to differing opinions or beliefs may help open your mind to something new and expand your own thoughts.
Inclusion can also have an impact on your team’s sense of safety and purpose, important components of their well-being. As you work toward ways of fostering a more inclusive workplace, if you or your colleagues are feeling anxious or stressed, consider trying to step away from the workday and take a 10 minute walk to check in with what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling.
A note for leaders
Your organization’s culture is driven by your people. Your team’s beliefs, values and backgrounds add diversity to your workplace. Fostering inclusion acknowledges that your team members’ values are recognized and understood. Here are a few ways to continue fostering inclusion in your workplace:
- Be accessible. Let your employees know you’re available to talk. Open and honest conversations show team members you personally value them.
- Individualize employees. Get to know your team. Learn about personalities, expectations and experiences so you may appreciate them as individuals.
- Provide resources. Educate members across your organization about diversity and the various challenges people face. Schedule diversity and inclusion training and workshops. Also, you’re company may offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). If so, direct individuals to their EAP for more resources.
- Accept mistakes. Allow room for misunderstandings while your team works toward fostering a more inclusive environment. We all can learn and grow from our mistakes.
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