How inclusive an organisation are you?
“The reality of life is that your perceptions — right or wrong — influence everything else you do. When you get a proper perspective of your perceptions, you may be surprised how many other things fall into place.” – Roger Birkman1
Many organisations are realising the importance of fostering an inclusive culture of equality and diversity through their corporate policies, recruitment practices and leadership rhetoric. At the ground level, how is this culture fostered without paying lip service and thereby undermining inclusiveness? First, we need to understand barriers to inclusion.
What are the barriers to inclusion?
I believe the barriers we face are those unconscious biases we’re not necessarily even aware of:
- Fear of that which is unknown or different to us – have we experienced it?
- Stereotypes – where have these come from and how useful are they?
- Prejudices – have you questioned where these views have come from?
- Lack of role models by way of mentors and sponsors who challenge these pre-conceptions
- Organisations not accommodating diversity in leadership, communication or working styles. A motivated and flexible workforce is often a more diverse and inclusive one.
How we perceive differences in people has a massive impact on how we interact in the workplace. We naturally find it helpful to group and categorise people to aid our understanding. Despite this we must remember that for all our similarities and differences, we are individuals. No two people will have the exact same experiences, genetics, socio-economic status, education, beliefs and values. We are all different in some way and that’s a positive thing!
How can we act to avoid bias?
I think the ancient wisdom of the Toltec can help provide some valuable insights as described in the book ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz2:
- Be Impeccable with your Word – Speaking with integrity. Let’s avoid generalising the beliefs and behaviours of an entire group of people. Consider the impact of what we say and our actions on others.
- Don’t Take Anything Personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own model of the world. I think it is healthy to provide a different perspective and challenge views in a constructive and balanced way
- Don’t Make Assumptions – Get to know the individual. Ask before assuming. Foster a culture of openness where you can clarify and challenge inappropriate comments in private.
- Always Do Your Best – One of Interserve’s values is ‘take pride in what you do’. If everyone did their best – just imagine what we could achieve together. This also has the effect of creating a positive working environment where we don’t judge/blame ourselves or others.
I strongly believe we all need to take responsibility for our words and actions. If we value what others can offer and create the right, supportive environment for collaborative team working we can achieve so much together.That’s why I’ve been involved with the Women in Interserve Network, sharing my experiences and supporting others.
Difference in others can be a source of learning for us. Let difference be the making of us by way of innovation, growth and prosperity that benefits our business and society.
1 Roger Birkman, an American organisational psychologist, created the ‘Birkman Method’, a workplace psychological assessment
2 The Toltec were ‘people of knowledge’ – scientists and artists who created a society to explore and conserve the traditional spiritual knowledge and practices of their ancestors. The simple ideas of The Four Agreements provide an inspirational code for life; a personal development model, and a template for personal development, behaviour, communications and relationships