Many if not most of us have a strong need to belong. This applies in all walks of life, and no less in the organisation where we work. Not only do we want to go to work, earn money, and come home satisfied at the end of the day, but we also want to have our efforts acknowledged. When people feel excluded, this all breaks down, damaging the employee overtly, and also the entire organisation, if more subtly.
According to Harvard Business Review, this feeling of being included – also known as social belonging - is one of our most basic needs and is hardwired into our DNA. As human beings, we are naturally social animals, which is why any form of exclusion can have a severe impact on our wellbeing. To feel left out is a deeply damaging problem, which can cause a range of psychological and physical health issues, often affecting relationships with family and friends and colleagues. It is also why exclusion physically hurts: the feeling of being excluded is comparable to physical pain.
Serenity in Leadership recently held an online facilitated dialogue where we asked up to 30 participants to write down 3 words they associate with inclusion and exclusion, respectively. This exercise was telling in that it revealed the profound personal associations participants had with these words, and which gave us further insight into the mental and emotional consequences of workplace exclusion.
A few significant “Exclusion” words that stand out to us include:
· Wasted talent
· Lost opportunity
· Misuse of power
A few significant “Inclusion” words that stand out to us include:
With the above in mind, it’s no surprise that the cost of exclusion is so high and has been linked to the following.
- Poor morale and low employee engagement
- A loss of respect for senior leadership
- Decreased performance and productivity
- High turnover
- Long-term damage to company reputation
Knowing all this, how do we then take organisations from fearful to connected, misunderstood to valued, marginalised to belonging? We’ve listed 5 tips organisations can follow, to ensure they are not only more mindful of inclusion but can take active steps to enforce it within their organisations.
Inclusion leads to better understanding. ‘Othering’ is the process whereby negative characterisers are attributed to someone because they are deemed different and are labelled as not fitting in. The opposite to that is wanting to learn about someone else’s differences, to educate ourselves and to reduce our unconscious biases.
- Introduce casual chat and check-ins at the beginning of all regular meetings to increase understanding of individual’s circumstances, to find commonality, and to create a more accepting environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves.
Inclusion is good for business. Responsible, resilient workplaces embrace inclusion, diversity and equality, having a direct positive effect on productivity in the workplace, helping businesses and employees thrive.
- Align your business objectives with the meeting of human needs, in order to tap into powerful ways to facilitate change.
Inclusion creates a healthier workplace environment. A workplace lacking in diversity and inclusion will detrimentally affect mental health and have a direct causal relationship with feelings of resentment, anxiety, anger and injustice.
- A business not only has to prime the engine with a diverse mix of good promotion candidates but must ensure they have a truly equal opportunity for promotions, not just once but all the way to the executive suite for a healthy, diverse workplace.
Inclusion increases awareness and curiosity. Learning about, recognising and respecting your own and other cultures enables us to understand different perspectives and gives greater insight into varying attitudes and beliefs.
- Foster curiosity to fight against ignorance and prejudice. Encourage your team to be courageous; be curious, practise active listening and demonstrate empathy for a different way of thinking and show them exactly how that is done
Include all employees in conversations about inclusion. Removing barriers to inclusion requires that actions support all employees, regardless of their gender identity, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
- While many inclusion discussions effectively focus on underrepresented populations, our data suggest an opportunity to expand these conversations to recognize that inclusion applies to everyone, particularly including the majority groupings.
For more information on building inclusion and belonging within your organisation, get in touch.