People at all levels of the org chart can implement these inclusive behaviors at work.
Recently, many of us have become familiar with the terms ‘the Great Resignation’ and ‘quiet quitting.’ There are several factors that lead to people changing careers or choosing to do the minimum required to keep their current job.
In a previous paper, we covered burnout as one cause. Another cause is the feeling of lack of inclusion and the resulting lack of engagement. Without inclusion, the people who represent diverse viewpoints will feel invisible, like their opinions and voices are not valued, and will either shut down or leave the company.
Inclusion is everybody’s responsibility; the inclusive behaviors of one manager or employee are not enough to change the culture at work.
NOTE: In our paper, A Manager’s Guide to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, we emphasize that diversity, equity, and inclusion are separate but interdependent characteristics of a healthy and successful team and organization. This blog focuses mainly on inclusive behaviors at work, although inevitably there is a link to diversity and equity.
What is Inclusion?
Inclusion is acceptance within the community. In an ideal inclusive workplace, employees feel welcome, bring their full selves to work, participate fully and use their voice, and don’t feel like a token employee just hired to achieve surface-level diversity.
The ongoing journey of inclusion is rooted in one key behavior above all: empathy. When everyone makes the effort to understand someone else’s lived experience, cares enough to get to know each other, and supports each other in a way that’s meaningful to the individual, inclusion will flourish.
Managers and leaders have the greatest influence on inclusion because they define employees’ day-to-day lived experiences, which are far more important than published core values. But the following inclusive behaviors are the responsibility of all employees.
Inclusive behavior at work: learn Relationship Intelligence
Relationship Intelligence (RQ) is insight to adjust your approach to make interactions more effective. Your organization is interconnected by teams—by people interacting in big and small ways every day. Every outcome relies on the ability to work well with others, so there’s enormous value in building the relational skills to work together effectively.
Relationship Intelligence—based on the SDI 2.0 assessment—provides a framework to help us understand ourselves and others. The SDI 2.0 assessment helps people name their motives, strengths, and values, and recognize that everyone, regardless of race, religion, politics, or gender, has some similarities and some differences at their core. RQ provides the skills to use those core similarities and differences to be more effective and inclusive at work.
The four skills of Relationship Intelligence are:
Positive regard is treating people, including yourself, with dignity and respect, assuming positive intentions and motivations.
- Who in your team do you have the most positive regard for and why?
- How much of this is based on objective competence and attitude, and how much on subjective liking or disliking?
- Are you inclined to listen to some people more than others and why?
- How capable are you of seeing the positive intent behind each person’s behavior?
- Are you open to let other people get to know you?
Service orientation is being curious and open to learn what people need; being willing to meet other people’s needs and appreciative when they meet yours.
- Are you more available to some people than others?
- Are you curious about what others need to succeed in their role?
- Are you transparent about what you need from each relationship?
- Do you express gratitude or recognition when someone succeeds or supports you?
Personal accountability is taking ownership and initiative; being responsible for the results of your actions and choices.
- Do you try to control some people more than others?
- Who are you willing to allow to be accountable for their own actions and outcomes?
- Are there times when you give too much choice?
- Are you willing to declare and learn from mistakes?
- Are you willing to give and receive feedback?
Strengths-based agility is the intentional use of behavioral strengths in pursuit of desired outcomes; metaphorically, choosing the right tool for the job.
- How is our view of others hindering our ability to be agile in the use of our strengths?
- Are you agile and flexible in your communication style?
- Do you know how each person wants to be included?
- Do you know how comfortable they feel speaking up in different situations?
- Do you understand who they are and do they feel comfortable sharing how they’re feeling?
Inclusive behavior at work: create psychological safety
Everyone wants to belong somewhere and feel valued and included, especially at work where we spend so much time. To ensure that everyone feels that they can bring their full selves to the team, practice promoting psychological safety.
Psychological safety is about building trust and transparency in the relationship—not avoiding difficult conversations.
With trust and psychological safety, employees have:
- A belief in the manager and team’s reliability, competence, honesty and positive intent
- The freedom to be together without being judged, harmed, or humiliated
You can speed up trust on your team by:
- Spending time getting to know each other and letting yourself be known
- Getting to know each person individually and letting them get to know you
- Asking questions to be curious
- Listening with the intent to understand
- Leading by example
- Walking the talk
- Maintaining positive intent
- Keeping your commitments
Inclusive behavior at work: challenge your unconscious biases
The four skills of RQ matter because humans are not wired to welcome differences. We have a consensus bias, meaning we’re subconsciously drawn to people who are just like us. To combat this, we need to consciously challenge our unconscious biases.
When people don’t respond like we do, we feel uncomfortable and it distorts our view of them. We often see differences as a failure of that person to be like us. To see other people more clearly and objectively in the moment:
- Examine why you feel uncomfortable: the person, their style of delivery, your history, the environment, or the issue itself
- Be honest with yourself if a person just irritates you, then include them anyway
- Respond with a curious question if you’re not sure what to say
Core Strengths has developed a framework for challenging your unconscious bias on an ongoing basis, that’s also part of Relationship Intelligence.
Re-cast the past
What has happened in the past that’s stopping you from engaging with someone? Why? Was there a real experience or is it a bias or assumption?
Revisit previous experiences with people and shine a new light on them through the lens of the four skills of Relationship Intelligence. Then, you can start from a better position in your next conversation or communication.
Re-casting the past means:
- Challenging assumptions
- Adding information
- Exchanging perspectives
Master the moment
Today’s interactions create tomorrow’s past. Mastering the moment is about adapting your communication style to the person in front of you while remaining true to who you are. It’s about being yourself with more skill.
Mastering the moment means:
- Being present and paying full attention to everyone
- Making others feel they belong
- Ensure no one feels superior or inferior
- Give yourself and others the freedom to be your authentic self
- Be generous with praise for contributions
It’s also about ensuring no one is:
- Talked over
- Not invited to contribute
Co-create the future
Inclusive behavior is a way of being, not an activity that you do a few times a year. If people on the team have an understanding, you can mutually agree on rules of engagement for going forward.
Co-creating the future means:
- The relationship has a future
- It means something to all of us, not just one of us
One great way to master the moment and co-create the future is to make a note at the beginning of each meeting about how you will ensure everyone is included. At the end of each meeting, reflect on how effective you were in making everyone feel included.
If we can master these skills we can build inclusion, trust, commitment, and performance.
Inclusive behaviors at work in action
Our new Core Strengths integration with Microsoft Teams helps prevent unconscious biases from getting in the way. Before meetings, it tells you who’s in the room and who you’re likely to favor or not. By using this tool, you can get in a better place mentally to be inclusive.
- Be heard by tailoring your communication style to teammates’ preferences
- Better understand your teammates’ intent by listening through the lens of what others value
- Run better meetings based on insights into attendees’ strengths
- Make better decisions through healthy debate and navigating and resolving conflict