As we do our best to present our “perfect” best at work we sometimes leave instead the remnants of our tattered authentic self. We long to belong despite our imperfections. We know what they are and yet hope they are oblivious to none other. There have been times we have all had to endure the ridicule and isolation of others leaving us to feel wholly disconnected and disengaged.
This is especially true at work as it is in the rest of our lives. Our best selves emerge when we have experiences that connect us and create a sense of belonging.
So where does inclusion or belonging come from in the workplace? A sense of belonging develops when we make room for others however, they are different. Here are several steps to take to create a legitimate culture of inclusiveness. After all, the purpose of leadership is to bring out the best in people and one’s organization.
Create a discomfort zone to grow
If possible, leave your desk and work in a different area of the office for a while. Especially working alongside a front-line worker. You'd be surprised at how this simple change can engender a new perspective. You will have interactions with people you most certainly wouldn't have otherwise. This small change will contain discomfort allowing for juxtapositions. With the right attitude, it will inspire new ideas personally and organizationally.
Alternate who runs the meetings
A meeting doesn't have to belong to be "eternal." Honestly, most meetings are either too long or end up rehashing the same topics again and again. You'll often have the same people talking and talking and talking, while others remain silent or disengaged. Stir things up by rotating who runs meetings. Give that individual or team the freedom to be creative, while ensuring you're in alignment on the goals of the meeting. This gets people engaged and sends a signal that everyone's contribution matters. When done well, this creates openings for everyone to weigh in and, hopefully, inspire lively discussions and decisive actions.
Evaluate your assumptions at the door.
It is easy to make assumptions about others in the workplace, leading to misunderstandings, biases and often wrong conclusions. The next time you find yourself assuming something of someone -- even if it's as simple as "She's probably too busy" -- stop yourself. And ask the question first of that individual. Even if you confirm your assumption, you now have an informed understanding as a basis for further exploration and clarity.
Challenge yourself to speak to people outside your circle
Have conversations with people out of your circle. Speak with those whom you would never stop to chat with. Become genuinely involved with them as a person. When I have stepped outside my comfort zone to engage others about something other than work, I immediately feel the dopamine of doing something good. You'll feel some of your long-held assumptions i.e. biases dissipate about the person or perhaps group. As you consider ways to bring your whole self to the office, it is good to find a connection with others outside of work. This connection will often improve the ease of the working relationship and enhance overall communication.
About Jim Woods
Jim Woods is President and co-founder of Woods Kovalova Group. He has a master’s degree in organizational development and human resources. Mr. Woods has been a university professor where he taught productivity, organization, management practices, and leadership. Learn more about corporate training.