Inclusive workplaces attract top talent and enhance innovation, employee satisfaction, and overall organizational success. However, inclusive culture is a nebulous concept for many and can be challenging to understand, define, and foster. In short, we know it when we see it (and especially when we don’t!), but we don’t always know how to get to where we want to be. Let’s review three ways that we can approach creating and sustaining an inclusive culture.
1. Amplify Marginalized Voices and Shoulder the Load
Members of marginalized groups often find that once they make it into an organization, their voices are not always fully heard or utilized. Sometimes they get stuck doing simple behind-the-scenes, less strategic work such as taking notes or engaging in other “office housework.” Other times, they take on much more complex emotional labor or work, including participating in and running employee resource groups, which can be critical for inclusion and alignment but often fall outside their job descriptions and aren’t as valued or highly considered.
We can amplify voices by making sure that when someone makes a key point in a meeting, we notice that point, repeat it, and make sure that we give the original author of the point their due credit. Another way of amplifying someone’s voice is by inviting them to critical meetings and gatherings, and making a point to ask them to contribute to the conversation or discussion. Shouldering the load entails ensuring that the entire team participates in communication, organizational, and operational responsibilities– not just members of marginalized groups.
2. Foster Psychological Safety
Inclusive cultures are safe cultures. We often default to thinking of safety along the lines of physical safety, but we have to broaden our understanding of workplace safety to include emotional and psychological safety. A psychologically safe environment is one in which people believe (and are able to!) speak up candidly with ideas, questions, concerns, and mistakes. This enables the radical candor necessary to have cohesive, collaborative, fully engaged teams.
Psychologically safe leaders bring their whole selves to work and have high levels of self-awareness. When mistakes are made, own up to it. Don’t default to simply passing the blame. Instead of looking to find a scapegoat, focus on understanding the root cause of the problem and looking for solutions. This is the difference between saying, ‘How could you have let this happen?!’ and saying instead, ‘How can we figure out how to make this run smoother next time?’ Another way that leaders and managers can also contribute to a psychologically safe workplace is by engaging in open and honest conversations on mental health, well-being, and work-life balance.
3. Use Inclusive Language
Language plays a powerful role in shaping organizational culture. It impacts people in ways that can make them feel included or excluded. It’s critical that the language used and accepted is respectful, affirming, and inclusive. Using inclusive language means making a commitment to avoid language that might exclude particular groups of people, especially gender-specific words, such as “men,” “mankind,” guys,” and masculine pronouns. It’s a way to show that you respect, are aware of, and value the different perspectives, identities, and experiences that individuals bring to the table. It helps create a safe and open environment where others know they won’t be judged or looked down upon because of their social identity. It also means taking accountability and apologizing to someone if they point out your misuse of language, regardless of your intentions.
Encourage the use of gender-neutral pronouns and be mindful to avoid any expressions, phrases, or words that could be racist, sexist, ableist, or biased against any group of people. Many organizations use outdated terminology, such as “pull the trigger,” which is also inherently violent. Review your corporate handbooks, policies, internal platforms, etc., to replace any such phrasing. The Conscious Style Guide is one of our favorite inclusive language resources.
By prioritizing these three strategies, you can create a workplace where diversity is celebrated, employees feel supported, and a strong sense of belonging permeates the organizational culture. In doing so, you’ll enhance your workplace and contribute to a more equitable and inclusive society.
These are just three ways to consider creating and sustaining a more inclusive culture and workplace. Are you interested in learning about other strategies? Do you have a strategy that works well for you? Let us know, and we may follow up with another post!