Thursday 6 August 2015

Can Inclusion thrive in a toxic environment?

Often, at the end of running an unconscious bias workshop I share with the participants this quote from Maya Angelou “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. For me this captures of essence of what inclusion is all about. I believe it is about how we show up in our behaviour towards others, how we relate to them and accept them irrespective of any differences there might be. 
Yet I wonder how conscious people are about their everyday workplace behaviours that might lead to an unintended impact of someone feeling excluded or where someone feels discounted or disrespected. For me, inclusion work is about creating organisations which enable individuals to feel engaged, respected and connected through the richness of ideas, backgrounds and perspectives. This sounds simple and easy to say yet the reality in organisations is often very different. What makes creating inclusion so hard to achieve?  There are many reasons, for example it could be due to the unintended impact of bias or ‘insider-outsider’ dynamics, where those with power who are usually the insiders, have little understanding and awareness of what needs to be addressed in order to create inclusion. In a recent experience with a client organisation it became obvious that senior leaders were not respecting of others and that this fostered a toxic climate of mistrust, which was then hindering the inclusion work. What is clear is that if individuals in organisations are serious about embedding inclusion, then practicing inclusion and moving beyond a simple intellectual understanding, over time the benefits of inclusion can begin to show up. Willingness to self-examine, self-audit and be intentional in exploring inclusion from the levels of individual day to day behaviours can help to bring about a change and make the organisation move towards being more inclusive. When inclusion becomes part of a systemic change that values differences, harnesses mutual respect and is a place where everyone has the opportunity to develop and be recognised for their personal skills and talents, then inclusion can move from being a mere aspiration to a reality over time. 
Find out in the next article how I am helping organisations to do this or call me if you want to discuss this subject further.

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