Inclusion Versus Exclusion

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By Dr. Sabrina Brandon Ricks, SBR Workplace Leadership Services

Based on social injustices throughout 2020 and prior, there has been heightened discussion and focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.  Although there have been trainings and workshops to help others better understand these concepts, there is still some confusion about why having to interact with someone in the workplace is important.  What if one simply does not like another coworker?  What if a manager does not like an employee?  What if an employee does not like their manager?  Would it just be easier to leave that person alone, avoid them at all costs, and just go on about the day without any interaction with that person?

No can do!  Think about it.  You are the individual that is disliked and not included.  This exclusion has nothing to do with your race, age, gender, or otherwise and as a matter of fact, the perpetrator is the same race, age, gender, and sexual orientation as you.  This is simply a personality clash and/or some dislike for the way you operate in the role you are in at work.  This is the experience you have each day:  You walk into the office OR you log on, virtually, for a meeting.  There are four of your colleagues present and the perpetrator, in this case a manager, greets each individual present and not you.  So you might hear:  “Hello, Jackie, Abdul, Jessica, and Randy!”  Yet, you are also sitting there and not acknowledged.  When your hand is raised during meetings to interject, you are looked over and not called on.  Additionally, you are also not included on the follow-up department email thanking everyone for a good meeting and inviting everyone out after work for some appetizers sponsored by the company.  How would this make you feel?

SBR Workplace Leadership Services recently offering a workshop on this topic and asked an attendee during a role play what this type of behavior felt like and the response given was invisible.  According to the Oxford Language Directory, invisible means “unable to be seen or not visible to the eye.”  Are you truly invisible?  Absolutely not.  Does anyone want to feel this way?  Absolutely not.  Think about how productive an employee would be if they felt invisible.  Think about the different work positions in which your life may not even be safe at work if coworkers make you feel invisible, such as a firefighter, emergency medical technician or paramedic, police officer or sheriff, military member, doctor, nurse, and more.  This could impact rather you go home from a shift at the end of the day because you are not liked, maybe at no fault of your own, and this threatens your well-being.

This is why assertiveness practice and mediation are essential. The art of communication is necessary in order to peel back the layers of what has caused the exclusionary behavior and how to overcome it.  It is likely a simple fix if communication takes place. There have been scenarios where someone did not hear another person speak to them and therefore they decided to stop speaking to them altogether.  There have been misunderstandings concerning roles, tasks, and expectations in the workplace that has led to exclusionary behavior.  This can all be resolved with proper communication which consists of:

  • One-on-one meeting(s)
  • In-person or virtual with webcams on
  • Eye contact
  • Stating facts
  • Listening without interrupting and without the goal of responding
  • Being vulnerable
  • Maintaining confidentiality
  • Offering suggestions for resolution
  • Being willing to compromise
  • Being willing to agree to disagree
  • Being open-minded
  • Implementing and practicing the resolution you decide upon
  • Follow up

The end goal in this conversation or meeting of the minds is to bring forth inclusion in your organization.  Inclusion will allow your employees to feel seen, acknowledged, heard, recognized, cared for, safe, belonging, and as a part of the team.  Inclusionary behaviors, such as always including all employees when greeting groups or sending emails to the team, can make a big difference in the climate of the workplace.  Additionally, it is easy to use inclusionary language, such as, ”Good day, everyone” or “ I hope you all have a good weekend.”  This simple change can make a major impact on how employees feel in your organization, their interactions with others, their job satisfaction, their productivity, their retention, and your company’s revenues.

If an organization is seeking additional guidance for leading and managing inclusion in the workplace, there is assistance. Contact SBR Workplace Leadership Services to learn more, to train your group, for executive coaching, employee engagement surveys, curriculum design, train-the-trainer, and completing educational workshops.


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