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Feeling ostracized at work can have hugely detrimental consequences. Image source: Purdue.edu

Feeling ostracized at work can have hugely detrimental consequences. Image source: Purdue.edu

It’s a common occurrence. There’s that employee or two (or dozens, depending on the size of your company) that just doesn’t fit in with the rest. Maybe they’re quiet or lack confidence. Maybe they don’t conform with the prevailing office culture. Whatever the case, feeling left out or ignored can have serious negative consequences. The snubbed employee might feel anxious about coming to work, their performance might drop, they might feel self-conscious and afraid to speak up, etc. Not to mention, your organization suffers as a whole because that troubled employee is not doing their best work, and will either quit or come to work miserable.

So what can you, as a leader, do if someone is being left out on your team?

1. Lead by example. Practice inclusive behavior and do NOT pick favorites. Challenge yourself to talk to everyone at the table during a team meeting and truly listen to what they have to say. One great method of inclusionary behavior is to ask introverted or excluded employees for their opinions or input in front of others. According to Harvard Business Journal, “Listening to employees not only signals to them that you value their contributions, but also demonstrates to other employees that everyone has value. Plus, you get the added benefit of a diverse set of opinions.”

2. Trust. Put your trust in your marginalized employees. Build their confidence by assigning them challenging projects or asking them to lead a team meeting. Show them that they are a valuable part of the organization by entrusting them to problem solve and create solutions to problems without you looking over their shoulder.

3. Create an Inclusive Environment. Have you ever been to a team meeting where only a few people dominate the conversation? This is exactly the kind of environment that makes people feel ostracized or unimportant. To avoid these negative feelings, try starting every meeting by going around the table and having everyone give a brief statement about the current project. That way, everyone’s voice is heard at the very beginning. You can also close the meeting out in a similar way by asking everyone to state how they think the meeting went and what they hope to accomplish between now and the next meeting. Another thing you can do is rotate meeting leaders (or co-leaders). That way, all team members get a chance to monitor the meeting.

4. Don’t dismiss others ideas. Even if you disagree or don’t quite understand a team member’s idea, don’t toss it aside. Instead, ask that person to clarify what they meant and give the idea thoughtful consideration. This open atmosphere is something Google embraces: “Googlers” are encouraged to bring their ideas forward, no matter how farfetched they might seem.

5. Realize that inclusivity is an ongoing objective. Just because you’ve successful navigated one team project, doesn’t mean that you can ignore inclusivity and move on to other things. Keep this ideal top-of-mind and strive for an inclusive workplace atmosphere.

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, LICENSED INSIGHTS DISCOVERY PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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inclusivityLast week, I addressed diversity and how it goes beyond physical characteristics and also involves diversity of thought, behavior, and perspective. This week, I’d like to discuss how your diverse workplace can be an inclusive one. First, let’s define what an inclusive workplace looks like.

People in an inclusive workplace…

…feel a sense of belonging, are treated fairly, and have equal opportunities

…feel like they can be themselves and allow others to be themselves

…are fully engaged and part of a team

…remain authentic

The result of inclusivity? Innovation, creative ideas, and fresh ways of looking at things. These are all things any organization wants, but how to achieve them? How can people with widely differing outlooks on life work together harmoniously and accomplish great things?

According to the principles I’ve learned from Insights® Discovery (a tool for understanding and developing unique personalities), inclusion really starts from the top. Company leadership needs to be fully invested in the idea of inclusivity before the rest of the team can truly adopt it. The organization should consider these questions:

  • Does the leadership recognize the diversity of its team?
  • Do they know how to adapt and connect with all the people on their team?
  • Do they know what motivates certain people on their team? Do they know what derails them?
  • Are there open lines of communication in the office?
  • Are questions and concerns addressed or ignored?
  • Does the leadership make an effort to hear from everyone at the table?

Company leadership can facilitate an open, inclusive environment, but it takes the rest of the organization to keep it up on a day-to-day basis. That takes awareness and reflection. We should be asking ourselves questions from time to time like: “How does the work environment feel?” “How comfortable is it for me? For my co-workers?” “Does the minority have a voice in the office?” “Are we encouraged to raise questions or concerns?”

It takes time to build an inclusive environment, but the results are worth it. Each person has the ability to add unique value to the organization, so it’s important to create an environment where that value can come through.

If you’d like to delve into workplace inclusivity in more depth, I encourage you to contact me so we can discuss your organization’s needs. Thanks for reading!

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