TIP: Creating An Inclusive Work Culture

Toward Inclusive Practices (TIP)

If you are interested in doing a better job attracting and retaining diverse employees, reducing unhealthy power dynamics, and fostering inclusivity, then consider ways to improve your office’s work culture. Employees’ positive work culture enhances employees’ sense of belonging, thus increasing job performance and retention, and reducing the negative impacts of exclusion or harassment. Developing a work culture that promotes inclusivity and belonging takes intentional actions. Here are some ways in which your department can get started to increase a positive workplace culture. 

Establish Community Standards Together
Just as you would onboard a new team member to be aware of handling hazardous material or what to do in case of emergency, take time to orient your group to shared community standards. Set aside some time at your next team meeting to seek input from community members about the aspects they desire to see in the shared work environment, such as open communication, timely meetings, showing appreciation, or embracing diversity. Having the group take ownership of the process models the commitment to be inclusive and levels any power differentials. A communal process will also ensure that everyone understands the expectations moving forward. Furthermore, use this as an opportunity to revisit your shared values and amend them as the group sees fit.

Describe Your Shared Values
Get specific when it comes to your values around diversity, inclusivity, and equity. Go further than just “be respectful” or “be inclusive.” Ask the team to be clear about what it looks like to “be inclusive” or other terms that may have different interpretations given different perspectives. Get descriptive about what actions you would like to encourage in this space, such as “actively listen and seek out other perspectives”, or “allow for other voices by consciously stepping back during conversations”. Perhaps inclusion looks like “acknowledging the contributions of team members who work behind the scenes.” Specifying the positive actions the group would like to see encourages members to follow through with intentional behaviors instead of adhering to vague terms. Create opportunities to recognize and reward group members for exemplifying the values or for going above and beyond.

Clarify the Consequences
Once the team understands the guidelines and values, it’s important to talk about what will NOT be tolerated. Discuss how to handle situations that may break the community standards. For example, a group member should feel empowered to speak up when an inappropriate comment has been made. Discuss the act of “calling in” which demonstrates the desire for members to learn and grow from their mistakes. More serious infractions such as incidents of bullying or harassment should be “called out” and clear instructions given on how to report violations to human resources or the Office for Equal Opportunity.

Creating an intentionally inclusive work culture can enhance a team member’s sense of belonging and shut down undesired behaviors. Remember that organizational culture is just that–a continually changing cultural group with its own set of values, desired behaviors, rewards, and consequences. The culture from one office to another can vary widely depending on the community member’s values, so be intentional about the way your office culture represents your commitment to inclusivity and belonging.

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