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How to make people feel included

Blair Mcpherson

Increasingly we live in diverse communities and work in diverse work places. But does everyone feel they belong, feel valued, feel included? Do those from minority groups feel safe and believe they are treated fairly or do they feel vulnerable, made to feel outsiders and in a million subtle and not so subtle ways made to feel excluded, not one of us. Contributor Blair Mcpherson former Director  author and blogger

To explicitly exclude some one because of their colour, religion or sexuality is discrimination and in many aspects of life such as employment, housing or services is  illegal. However exclusion is often unintended more to do with thoughtlessness than malicious intent or simply that the “in “ group like to emphasis what they have in common. Senior women complain that male dominated Monday morning meetings often start with an informal discussion about how their football team got on at the weekend.

How do you make people feel included be that in the locality or in the work place? 
Remove the barriers to participation, the wall ,the steps, the glass ceiling. Challenge the negative stereotypes, myths, and ignorance and ensure money/affordability does not prevent everyone from joining in.

“Diversity efforts fall short unless unless employees feel they belong” Pat Wadors¨”Creating an inclusive environment means everyone on your team / in your organisation feels like they belong. It means cultivating a space where everyone is comfortable speaking up, without fear of retaliation, being ostracized, or ridiculed for saying something that may not be so popular.

And when someone does say something  senior managers may not be so happy about hearing, they’ve got a responsibility to listen, and where necessary, take appropriate action to resolve a problem. Because if someone letting their voice be heard is met with resistance, the likelihood of them stepping out again is greatly diminished.” Pat Wadors

Why most organisations struggle to create an inclusive environment
They don’t want to have tough conversations. They want everyone to get along and work well together. As a result, the goal of having an “inclusive” culture is only possible as long as certain topics aren’t addressed. Or as long as no one is forced to have uncomfortable conversations. 

When issues do arise, they aren’t always handled appropriately. Friction arises, team members / people are alienated, and  staff don’t perform at their best. Senior managers need to create a safe space where people are free to talk about their differences. Then senior managers will create an organisation that isn’t afraid to tackle the difficult or uncomfortable.

A culture where everyone feels like they belong. One that’s inclusive. One that people enjoy being in. One that gets the best out of everyone and the organisation’s performance reflects this.

But you’ve go to plan in advance to create a culture that operates like this. And then you’ve got to do the work to implement and maintain it. It will not happen on its own.

The mistake is to think inclusivity is something separate that an organisation can address when the time is right or issues such as finance (budgets) and competitiveness (performance)have been resolved. The organisation can not get the best out of its staff unless managers at every level strive to creat an environment where staff feel they are treated fairly and are valued. Inclusiveness is therefore a management issue, it’s about ensuring all managers have people management skills. Unfortunately this area of management development is often neglected.

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