“Inclusivity” is one of those trending workplace buzzwords, right up there with fellow HR go-to, “diversity.” For companies to be inclusive, they need to think through whether their policies and practices include all employees—their cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, races, genders, lifestyles, etc.
But what does being inclusive have to do with you, the everyday employee? You may think, “DUH, this is 2019, and I’m one of those young people unburdened by stereotypes of the past.” Think again.
The truth is, it’s this kind of attitude that can end up excluding others, simply because you’re not thinking about it. Inclusivity is not something that comes that easily to many American offices, both because many executives still cling to traditional practices and beliefs and because inclusivity is not built into our culture as a whole.
These quick tips will help you spot under-the-radar ways exclusivity creeps into the office and make your workplace more welcoming to all.
Sideline the Booze
Let’s get some things straight: In general, booze is great, as is providing a relaxing scenario where employees can bond and connect. But centering the majority of your office outings around slowly increasing your BAC? That’s not inclusive.
Whether their religious beliefs don’t align with drinking, they’re recovering alcoholics, they’re pregnant, or they just don’t like it, there are probably many more people in your workplace than you think who don’t imbibe.
“So what?” you say. “They don’t have to attend the happy hour I planned. Why ruin it for the rest of us?”
This kind of thought excludes people, and it’s easy to see now how entire groups of coworkers are left out of activities.
Now, what you can do, is center an activity around some other component besides alcohol, even if you do include alcohol, too. Just make sure there’s something else going on, some other focus, for the people who don’t drink. This way, drinkers can drink, and non-drinkers can still have fun bowling, going on a boat, seeing a concert, or doing whatever else you have planned.
Trim Back the Christmas Trees
Many companies put holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter on their holiday calendars each year, but as you may well know, those days aren’t celebrated around the world, let alone around the office. Other religions and points of heritage are likely represented within your organization—and deserve to be recognized.
So, instead of only decorating the office with Christmas trees or menorahs, find out what holidays everyone celebrates so they can also be represented. Invite workers to bring their own decorations. If there are holidays celebrated that other employees may not know much about, like Diwali, the “festival of lights” for many countries and groups across the globe, ask those employees to educate others via a fun lunch-and-learn session.
You *Can* Sit With Us
Cliques—every workplace has them. And while it’s important to develop unique bonds with colleagues and some connections are definitely going to be stronger than others, cliques at work still make the “excluded” feel like we all did in high school: just plain bad.
Often when you’re part of a close-knit group, you don’t think about the people outside it. You assume they have their own friends, groups, or what have you within the company, too. The truth is, many people don’t.
You should still allow yourself close connections, but don’t be that group that’s constantly being loud at lunch, making sure the entire office can hear them talk about happy hour plans, or talking about inside jokes all through meetings or get-togethers. Instead, branch out from your usual crew to get to know everyone in the office. Invite coworkers to lunch. Grab coffee with the new hire.
The essence of being inclusive is recognizing and trying to understand those who are not exactly like you. The mere act of thinking through these issues will make you a more aware, compassionate, and all-around woke human being.
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Meredith Boe is a freelance writer and editor living in Chicago. Aside from contributing to InHerSight with insights about women in the workplace, she regularly writes literary criticism, nature articles, poetry, and creative prose.