7 ways to be an inclusive co-worker

Cheryl Carty, Inclusion & Diversity Consultant at Inclusive Employers, tells us how we can all be more inclusive at work by being authentic, challenging our own stereotypes and having open conversations.

Share Cheryl’s top tips with your colleagues to enable us all to take small steps towards making inclusion and everyday reality.

Each and every one of us has a role in inclusion and diversity. As individuals, we can teach each other ways to connect educate and learn. Inclusion and diversity are essential in today’s workplace because a variety of people from different cultures and backgrounds give us the balance of voices and thoughts that we need. We are all at different places in our D&I journey, but we must remember that a healthy balance of different people from different backgrounds encourages, greater innovation, creativity, and happier employees.

According to Built in Beta the following data show great examples of why inclusion is the right way to go. 

  • *Inclusive companies are 1.7 times more innovative
  • *67% of candidates seek out diverse companies to work for.
  • *Inclusive companies are 120% more likely to hit financial goals

It is not always easy to know the right things to do or say however by thinking about how we express our own values and inclusive behaviours we can help others show their inclusive selves in the workplace.

7 ways to be more inclusive at work

1. Be yourself – be your authentic self

Be brave enough to show up at your workplace. When working with your teams be authentic, remember that whatever you put out there will be reflected back.

Ensure that your values shine through and take time to speak and get to know everyone in your team. Share your own differences with them and remember to treat everyone with respect.

2. Speak up about inclusion

Following on from being your authentic self – always speak up in a healthy way ensuring that your decision aligns with your values and beliefs. Don’t be afraid to be the lone voice in the room. Managers value employees who are willing to step out of the pack to educate others.

3. Think about how you communicate

Be mindful of the words that you use. If words are not used correctly, they can be misinterpreted. So, for instance, when opening a conversation with your team avoid using gender-specific words like, ‘guys’ ‘ladies’ or ‘dudes’, especially in the presence of gender non-conforming or mixed-gender individuals. This could result in misgendering, and cut off team members from the conversation.

Be patient, always listen and allow others to speak and express themselves. Respect the time of the person you are addressing, give them your full attention by being sensitive and not interrupting and over-talking.

Consider your approach. If you know someone finds it uncomfortable to discuss Inclusion then find a way that they can easily digest it. Treat people and groups fairly—that is, based on their unique characteristics, rather than on stereotypes.

4. Respond from a place of personal experience

When contributing to a conversation use lines like “in my opinion” or “based on what I have read and learned” or “according to my experience”. Don’t dismiss or dispel contributions from other people. This is important and regardless of whether you agree, it helps keep the conversation open to all.

If you feel that an opinion is so different from yours then try using the terms like, ‘That’s a different perspective’ or ‘I see your point of view’ or ‘I never thought of it that way’. This again keeps the conversation inclusive. Always makes sure that there is time for questions and replies.

5. Pronouns.

It’s ok to ask which pronoun an individual prefers, in fact it is seen as a positive trait showing your curiosity and acceptance. By doing this you welcome everyone into the conversation, and you lead by example to the rest of your team.

Find out why we use pronouns at Inclusive Employers.

6. Challenge stereotypes

Whether it be about unconscious biases, lack of information, the influence of the media, or teachings coming from our cultural and social beliefs, stereotypes can lead to actions and reactions that can sometimes be exclusive and unfair. When meeting someone new, recognise the power that your own biases have, how they are making you feel. Take a breath before you move forward.

7. Support your co-workers’ differences

Educate yourself in co-workers backgrounds. Listen to them when they tell you about their religious celebrations. Have an International Bake off. How many different types of cakes can your teams introduce into the workplace?

And finally, you can reinforce your organisations Diversity & Inclusion strategy by sharing this blog with your colleagues. Your employees are at the heart of your culture and also responsible for their actions in supporting it. Let your colleagues know that by taking these small actions they can make a big difference.  

If you’d like to take this a step further, we have an inclusion allies programme which is designed to empower colleagues to act in allyship for minority groups, role model inclusion, break down silos, and help drive inclusion forward. Find out more about the Inclusive Employers inclusion allies programme or get in touch to find out how else we can support you on your inclusion journey.