How to Not Overcomplicate Inclusion
Sometimes we overcomplicate things, making them seem impossible, unattainable, or just plain hard to do. Inclusion is one of these things. Companies spend thousands of dollars to evaluate their processes and tell them how to be more inclusive, often resulting in scheduled diversity and inclusion training. While you’re waiting for that course, here are three things you can do immediately to help others feel included at work.
1. Advocate for others, including yourself.
I am sure you have either seen it or have been on the receiving end of it: an idea is thrown out into a conversation, and nothing happens. Then. someone else says the same thing and, all of a sudden, it’s as if the group had a breakthrough moment and the idea is latched onto and moved forward. While the participants in the room may not have intended to exclude the ideas of one person, the result is that the person’s contributions were minimized or even ignored. The same can be said for conversations that happen outside of the formal meeting. The “author” of the idea is not given credit for the contribution. What can you do?
- In the room, acknowledge the original person and idea that was said. “That was a great idea that Susie shared, and this is a great addition to what she was saying.”
- If it was your idea or contribution, don’t shy away from advocating for yourself. “I couldn’t agree more with the direction. What I mentioned previously touches on that and here is how we can expand it even further.”
- If you encounter this outside of the meeting, advocate for the other person. “That’s a great idea. I heard Susie talking about that last week. How can we build on her idea and pull her into our conversation? I’d love to hear more about what she’s thinking.”
2. Make sure others (including yourself) feel valued, heard, and respected.
What makes us feel valued, heard, and respected varies by person. One thing for me is feeling my ideas are being considered. If another perspective makes more sense, that’s ok, but I want others to at least take mine into consideration. Do you know what makes you feel valued, heard, and respected? Or how your coworkers would answer that question? If not, your homework assignment is to observe your interactions for a week and take note of what makes you feel the opposite. Sometimes, it’s easier to recognize the opposite and reverse-engineer the positive. Over time, you will see patterns and be able to clearly articulate how others can help you feel valued, heard, and respected.
3. Be a connector.
We can’t all be in every conversation or meeting, nor should we want to. But we can be on the lookout for opportunities to be a connector for others. For example, in two separate conversations, you hear colleagues talking about similar projects, not aware of the work the other is doing. Be the connector and share what you know, recommending they touch base and connect. If you hear of a need in the organization that you know someone else would be amazing at, make the connection. Finally, if you hear information that others could benefit from, share it, no strings attached.
We don’t need to overly complicate things when it comes to helping others feel included. Advocate for yourself and others, find opportunities to help others feel valued, heard, and respected, and be a connector. By doing these things, you’ll start building a foundation of inclusion.