by Vanessa F. Hurst
“There is room at the table.” “Every one is welcome.” It is easy to utter these phrases, make the sentiment; but, at times, it is not so easy to manifest these words into a world of inclusion. We may find our self thinking about someone with a “yes, but” attitude. Often there is a “good” reason why we do not include someone due to perceived differences. We want to include but are stopped by another’s diversity.
Inclusion and diversity are often intertwined in our minds and in the workplace. Often, inclusion is measures by how diverse a workplace may be. If the workplace has people of different ethnic groups, religions, social classes, and political beliefs, it may be proudly touted as diverse and inclusion. Compassion asks us to delve beneath surface diversity and ask how we form community by celebrating and integrating differences. Compassion asks us to recognize how we exclude.
Intentional inclusion is a product of mindfulness. We are aware that many personalities come together to form a workplace environment. Tensions may result from an individual’s unique, individual political beliefs, religious or spiritual tenets, and social norms. The workplace becomes an amalgam of personal views. Although coworkers are encouraged to focus on the mission, vision, and values of the organizations, it is often impossible to prevent the clash of divergent views when we are unaware of how the views of another trigger our judgments and assumptions.
Unaware the majority will overwhelm the minority. The mission, vision, and values may be interpreted through this the predominant personal belief system and not the collective consciousness. This results in those with different views feeling disenfranchised. What appears to be inclusive becomes stagnant. As trust decreases so does productivity.
Inclusion is a respect for differences and an open mindedness to explore those divergent views objectively. Co-workers don’t have to agree. When each member seeks to understand the views and beliefs of one another, respect is nurtured. Questions are asked with the energy of curiosity and a lack of judgment. Commonality is found beneath the fear of differences. And, through this commonality, inclusion is birthed and flourishes. (If unsure about how to find this commonality, look how each person is working toward the same goal or set of goals within the office. Get to know the person as a coworker not as a personal life label.)
Digging into common ground and planting the seeds of trust and respect, team members are more open to the ideas of others. Instead of working with another despite differences, respect for team diversity has the potential to spawn a variety of creative and innovative ideas. Nurturing those seeds with compassion creates a collective attitude of “can do” — the attitude of radical change. All are not only welcome but consciously invited and embraced in the creative process. No one is left out — trust grows. Coworkers begin to understand that innovation is the result of listening and responding to people with diverse ideas, experiences, and worldviews. This is inclusive collaboration.
The power of inclusion is the force behind an increase in job satisfaction and employee retention. Trust increases as employees see themselves not as someone easily replaced and soon forgotten but as a respected, trusted, integral part of a successful team. The workplace becomes a community that is dynamic, flexible, and evolving. It becomes a place of almost immeasurable return on investment.
Vanessa F. Hurst is a community builder who works with organizations to identify compassion aspects of their culture and to create a collaborative environment. She consults with organizations to strengthen relationships with current stakeholders and invites new stakeholders to the community.