Increasing inclusivity in the workplace doesn't always require broad organizational changes. Rather, small changes to your own behavior can help improve the workplace experience of your coworkers. Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Nikita and Grace Lordan offer seven tips on being a more inclusive coworker.
Nikita is a research officer in behavioral science at The Inclusion Initiative, and Lordan is the founding director of The Inclusion Initiative and an associate professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
1. Highlight the contributions of others
Making other coworkers visible allows them to showcase their skills, be known to decision makers, and build relationships, Nikita and Lordan write. You should highlight the achievements of a competent coworker who may lack visibility by publicly acknowledging their contributions and encouraging them to speak in meetings.
2. Use your pronouns
Introducing yourself and including your pronouns at meetings can signal that you're an ally to coworkers who may struggle with being referred to by the wrong pronouns, Nikita and Lordan write. It also normalizes the practice for the rest of your coworkers.
3. Use language that is gender-inclusive
Using gender-inclusive language has been proven to improve well-being among LGBTQ employees, Nikita and Lordan write. Rather than saying words like "guys" to refer to a group of people, say "people" instead.
4. Consider your vocabulary
Consider the connotation or origins of some of the words you use, and eliminate slang terms that may alienate your coworkers, Nikita and Lordan write. For example, the term "lame" often refers to something boring or monotonous, but it initially referred to people with impaired mobility.
5. Celebrate with your coworkers
A diverse workplace will have many people from different cultural backgrounds who celebrate different things, whether religious or historic. Allowing others to celebrate those occasions and participate in organized events acknowledges their individuality, Nikita and Lordan write. And celebrating alongside them can help make them feel more accepted and improve their morale while also building psychological safety.
6. Be creative with team-bonding
When developing team-bonding exercises, consider the availability and interest of everyone on the team, Nikita and Lordan write. If social events are always at bars in the evening, that could prevent people who are caregivers, parents, remote workers, or people who don't drink alcohol from attending.
Instead, Nikita and Lordan recommend considering events like virtual coffee chats, volunteer work, or online games.
7. Be curious
Schedule coffees or lunches with coworkers from different backgrounds, Nikita and Lordan write. Taking an interest in people's lives inside and outside the office can help you determine what small actions you can undertake to be a more inclusive coworker.
Workplace inclusion is "an ever-evolving experience that requires the contribution of every employee — regardless of their level of seniority in the organization — to make each other feel included," Nikita and Lordan write. "To foster inclusion around you, form and regularly practice inclusive behaviors until they become habitual and automatic. Starting with these small actions can enable you to transform the level of inclusivity in your team." (Nikita/Lordan, Harvard Business Review, 2/2)
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