What does inclusion even mean in today's polarized times? I wanted to explore this topic more and it has been a topic of my research the last weeks. I did not pick the timing, however the recent events have given even more perspective to "how far have we come?" in regards to inclusion in the workplace.
We tend to talk about inclusion in many corporate work environments and have made progress, but not enough. In our personal lives and communities we in many cases face disagreements over liberal vs. conservative policy, religion, race, sexual orientation, and many other topics that can split the best of families and friends apart. In a way, the employees in our working communities are in some cases much further along than many others in society that are never exposed to global or diverse environments, where various perspectives can be shared.
I recently put out a poll on LinkedIn (broader community) that resulted in the following:
We associate Inclusion with the following word:
Embrace - 67%
Accept - 25%
Understand - 8 %
Agree w/ - 0%
We should all take poll results with a grain of salt ... however, two things stuck out to me from these particular results:
- The definition of embrace is : to accept (a belief, theory, or change) willingly and enthusiastically. With both embrace and accept being a total of 92% of the responses here, I see this as positive development within this community of responders.
- No one responded that inclusion means to "agree with". This is even the more interesting result I would like to expand on further.
With diversity, comes a variety of backgrounds, experiences, values, perspectives...... and as much as this brings in a richness to discussions, it certainly does not always make things easier (at first). There will be conflict. There will be disagreement. Things may even initially slow down. We need to have the patience and fortitude as leaders to support their teams:
- to get curious and understand the different perspectives....giving everyone a voice at the table
- to be able to sustain discussions of different views (respectfully and empathetically) ....
- to have tools to navigate systems and organizations where everyone does not agree
Conflict does not always need to be destructive! Progress comes only when we have the courage and resilience to enter into the grey zones. The zones where there is no right or wrong, but where tensions can be held between different poles of opinion. This is where the richness of diversity comes in, and where inclusion can take on an element of "embrace" but can also allow everyone to remain as individuals with their own mindsets, opinions and beliefs....respectful and empathetic of others that hold a different one.
And while things may be more challenging or slow down... in the end the result of the work of a diverse team is much higher quality, creative, and with solutions that benefit the larger community, and not just a piece of it.
My mission (with many of my partners and colleagues) is to help organizations navigate these grey zones. If we continue to focus on bringing more people together to discuss complex topics in times of challenge and change, we can make more progress together and make even more strides in sustainable transformation.
If you are interested in arming yourselves with more tools of compassion and empathy during these challenging times, please reach out.
Founder emOcean Coaching & Consulting