The last thing you need is for me to bore you with workplace ‘best practices’ for diversity and inclusion. If you’re in management—any level—then you go to bed with the list in your head. Achieving workplace harmony without memorizing a list of do’s and don’t’s, is a daunting challenge. That’s why we have to approach the topic of inclusion in a totally new and different way that goes beyond the discussion of race and gender.
Twenty years as a licensed marriage & family therapist, relationship expert & diversity trainer has shown me my fair share of how shall I say it, under-functioning (I don’t like dysfunctional) organizations and teams. The solution to companies’ mounting diversity and inclusion woes lies in three critical behaviors. First, individuals must practice open, honest self-reflection and communication. Second, they must contextualize diverse behaviors and beliefs. And third, they must turn that contextualization into consistent action.
Simply put, to create an inclusive environment at home, work, church or community, you must learn to respect, or at least accept, beliefs and behaviors you deem weird, unacceptable, or just plain wrong. Easy, right?
Hardly. Yet there is no other way and there are no shortcuts. It takes real commitment and real work, from top to bottom. Attitudes born out of our own individual upbringing and conditioning informs a company’s culture. Still many organizational leaders haven’t realized that investing in diversity and inclusion training directly impacts their bottom line. The inability to recognize and address this issue head on, often leads to unproductive and unprofitable businesses.
There are two questions to ponder and then, answer:
Does the company’s leadership care enough to do the hard thing? And do the individuals in the company care enough about the company’s success (or their teammates) to let go of attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that are counterproductive to a healthy, inclusive culture?
My training program helps company leadership assess its attitude about and response to inclusion, putting operations in place to adjust both. Results from my inclusion research indicates that if leaders are not intentional about creating work spaces conducive to inclusivity, it affects productivity, resulting in the silo effect; making recovery near impossible.
The lack of leadership intentionality then affects morale and productivity. The message sent to personnel is that, ‘They don’t care about us,’ making the company’s leadership ‘The Other.’ The disconnect, then, infects the company’s culture in general, creating a domino effect. If you’ve ever been a part of or overheard break-room, employee, company gossip you know this all too well.
Inclusive relationship training invites the group to normalize (make sense of) their prejudices and to empathically contextualize the experiences of everything from obesity, religious, skin color, socioeconomics, ethnicity and even, education, to name a few. Trainees leave with a new respect, not only for themselves, but also for team members, which typically translates into a better environment and a stronger company, one that is productive and profitable.
Building inclusive cultures starts with truly valuing difference. Check out Dr. Nixon’s course, How To Leverage Diversity & Inclusion In The Workplace.
Dr. Debra Nixon has more than 30 years of community service, corporate training and coaching experience. A social scientist, researcher, former university psychotherapy professor, and diversity and inclusion expert, she helps organizations and companies navigate through tough leadership, diversity and organizational development challenges.