Have you ever felt rejected despite all the nice words about diversity in your organization? Have you noticed that sometimes things that are written on the walls of the company do not really materialize? Does it sound familiar? Yes, it does, because, more than words, you might be expecting acts and facts about inclusion at work.
Leading an inclusive work policy is not only accepting differences. It is about letting people come as they are. As a free individual, you should not need to compromise your authenticity at work as long as you respect the collective rules and codes of conduct. First, because you should not be ashamed of who you really are. And also because, from a pragmatic point of view, it is very tiring on a daily basis. I guess you’d rather use your energy to get results and achievements instead of hiding a significant part of your identity.
As Steve Jobs noticed long ago, “it doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do”. One of the worst things is the illusion of inclusion. In this case, you hire people for their differences and then ask them to act and think like anybody else in the company. This strategy is frustrating both for the newcomer and for HR or the manager who is trying to change the new employee and make him/her fit in. These kinds of onboarding processes can be exhausting for everyone. Even if they are delivered by people who have good intentions.
Whatever happens, do not let people think less of you at work because you have special needs. Belonging to the same company culture does not imply that we all have to act and look the same way all the time. You are allowed to challenge current practices from the inside.
Keep in mind that differences are not only something you see in the first place. For instance, many employees suffer from chronic disease and invisible disabilities. Some people have dyslexia, others mental disorders or asthma. Or they can simply be late bloomers. Not everybody does things at the same pace and this is fine!
A 60 year-old accountant can view him/herself as a high potential and be very enthusiastic about his/her career. Whereas a 24 year-old marketing project manager can already be experiencing an intense burn-out. Before judging too fast, try to observe and be empathetic. You might realize that stereotypes can kill cohesion and team spirit. To improve inclusion in the workplace, walk a mile in others’ shoes, give it a chance!
If you are a very rational individual, you will have to start practicing using your heart eyes. Your mind will also need to be stretched. As a manager, when you recruit a new member for your team, ask yourself if you need someone who thinks and dresses just like you or if you are interested in a newcomer who could bring his/her own vision to others. In any case, take time to make room for debate. It could be great if you could not overlook candidates and employees in your team just because they differ from you. For what it’s worth, you have the power to make it work. Can you believe it?