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Being yourself at work and true inclusion

Inclusion in today’s workplace is moving beyond joining ethnic, LGBT or any other networks covered by the Equality Act. Proactive companies define it as diversity of thought, values and interests. ‘Being yourself at work’ may be the best way to describe it. However, when taking down barriers and opening up new freedoms of self-expression in the workplace, one aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked is our interactions with others and how what we say and do affects people.

We all want to be ourselves and still thrive, grow and succeed. Work is where most of us spend the majority of our time and energy, so why compromise? Modern firms need to enable this inclusive environment. There isn't one thing that motivates everyone. There isn't a one-size-fits-all for anything at all, yet policy setting or management are all about finding the lowest common denominator and making that the 'legislation'. The companies that will succeed tomorrow will be those who can find ways to embed the principle of choice in everything they do.

And yet there is one choice (or a set of choices) that should, in fact, be a no-choice when it comes to being part of an inclusive, positive and respectful environment. It’s unlikely that any of us turns up at work with the intention of being disrespectful to our colleagues. However, the workplace is full of micro-inequities. They are subtle (often unintended) devaluing words and behaviours that can affect self-esteem, motivation and performance. These negative micro-messages (that have been studied and analysed for around half a century) can poison workplace culture and contribute to increased staff turnover. Positive micro-messages (micro-affirmations), on the other hand, can help employees feel motivated and excel.

Outstanding leaders of tomorrow will help their employees become more self-aware, conscious of their impact on others. Micro-inequities training represents the start of this journey that some organizations have embarked on. Imagine a world one step further, with metaphorical mirrors held up for people to understand better how they land in certain situations, and to learn from that. A world where it is normal to talk about the impact people have on you, where it's OK to call something out and discuss alternative means of delivering the same message. And where the person being challenged has space to respond, reflect and effectively challenge back. This sort of world embodies true diversity, equality and inclusion. It fosters potential for creativity, innovation, engagement and commitment – key ingredients for business success as well as attracting and retaining talent and staying ahead of the competition.

This is the second blog in the series Imagining workplace 2020 (and beyond).



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