Workplace Belonging: A Journey Rather Than a Destination

By: Louis Chesney

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Employees who feel their organization is committed to and supportive of diversity and inclusion report better business outcomes in innovation, responsiveness to changing customer needs, and team collaboration.

Moreover, employees have higher job satisfaction and lower turnover intentions when:

  • Supervisors/team leaders are committed to a workforce representative of all segments of society.
  • Policies and programs promote diversity in the workplace (e.g., recruiting minorities and women, training in awareness of diversity issues, mentoring).
  • Managers/supervisors/team leaders work well with employees of different backgrounds

In addition to diversity and inclusion, a healthy organization also depends on effective human relations. For your employees to gain acceptance from peers, they may feel pressured to lose their uniqueness to conform to dominant societal norms that impact their sense of belonging. Consequently, 40% of your employees may feel isolated at work, resulting in lower organizational commitment and engagement.

Below is an activity your employees can do alone or in a small group. Managers, supervisors, or team leaders can ask their members to use reflection and action to empower them to create a greater sense of belonging for their work teams.

Begin the activity by reviewing each pair of Reflection and Action questions / statements. Take a blank sheet of paper or open a new document on your computer and write down their answers to the Reflection and Action questions / statements below.

Reflection

Action

When have I been angry or upset with a friend or colleague for challenging or discounting what I said?

Describe how you could have handled your emotions more healthily and productively. Could you accept that that person’s reality may look different than yours?

Describe who you are at work and how you like to work.

Write down three practical ways an employer can support or accommodate this person.

Think of a time when you disagreed with a friend or colleague without having a rationale behind it. Where do you think it came from?

Describe how you interpret the situation, considering the facts and evidence. Would you still disagree with your friend or colleague?

Think of someone powerful and influential in your life. Do you believe some of that power and influence came with their given status in society?

Write down three ways you can exert more power and influence in an area of your life where you feel it is most needed.

Do you remember when someone assigned you a stereotypical task of your social identity group (e.g., your gender, race, or generation) because they assumed that you could do it?

List three skills or personal qualities you have that others may not see.

Was there a time you were afraid of expressing yourself for fear of being punished for breaking social etiquette?

Describe who you would be and what it would be like to be around you if you let go of that fear.

Think about a time when someone made a teasing remark to you. How did you respond?

Reflect on what you could have done differently to achieve a better outcome.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of an insult disguised as a compliment? If so, describe the incident.

Write down what you would say to the person today to help them understand the impact of their words on you.

Think of a time when the fear of failure or making a mistake limited you. Where do you think the fear came from?

What would you say to yourself if you were more attuned to yourself and your individual needs?

Do you find yourself trying to act a particular way to please others? If so, write down what arises from this reflection.

If you were more in touch with yourself, imagine and write down what direction it would take you.

We encourage you to share your answers with your team members while acting with empathy and compassion so that others can express their feelings safely. Keep in mind no one “gets it right” all the time.

Use this activity in your organization to create a workplace culture of safe expression, active listening, patience and respect, and accommodation for differences.

Yuval Noah Harari, who wrote “21 Lessons for the 21st Century,” says: “Even if you personally belong to a disadvantaged group and therefore have a deep firsthand understanding of its viewpoint, that does not mean you understand the viewpoint of all other such groups. For each group and subgroup faces a different maze of glass ceilings, double standards, coded insults, and institutional discrimination.”

To learn more about the new RethinkCare platform, request a demo.

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