How Healthy Conversations Create a Stronger, Inclusive Culture

In an inclusive workplace, everyone feels respected and valued for being who they are; people trust that they can speak up, do their best at work, and be treated fairly. People who are happy in the workplace are more likely to perform better and contribute more to business success. The proof? Deloitte’s research shows when employees think their organization is committed to and supportive of diversity, and they feel included, their ability to innovate increases by 83%. McKinsey & Company reports companies with strong gender and ethnic diversity are 15% and 35%, respectively, more likely to outperform their competitors.

Unconscious Bias

An inclusive culture works to eliminate stereotypes and biases – a predisposition to see certain things, events or people in a positive or negative way. Far more destructive is unconscious bias – a prejudice against one thing, person, or group (as compared to another) in a way that is usually considered unfair. Our upbringing, education or environment may have ingrained unconscious biases into our being and we often don’t even realize it. These biases can obstruct efforts to build an inclusive workplace, diminish collaboration, and thwart creativity if they are not acted upon. Our 2021 Trends and Forecasts Report gives ideas and tips to address these challenges.

Linking Diversity to the Workplace

A few years ago, Google conducted an in-depth research project called Project Aristotle, aimed at determining the key factors that contribute to high-performing teams. According to the findings, the most significant element of team success is what’s known as psychological safety: a culture of trust where people feel safe to speak up, take risks, and know that they won’t be ridiculed for making mistakes or dissenting. In other words, people need the space and freedom to be and express themselves.

As we collaborate, we must communicate and this includes having discussions with people who have differing opinions and experiences. As a manager, your challenge is to foster a team culture that is open and productive, to facilitate discussions where people feel safe sharing their experiences and perspectives, and create an environment that is conducive to learning.

Healthy Conversations

Here are a few tips to ensure your teams have meaningful and productive discussions:

  • Assume positive intent: Start with the belief that the other person means well, putting aside your own position. This allows you to observe their non-verbal cues and really focus on what the person is saying.
  • Allow time for reflection: Pauses allow time for thinking and consideration. When the conversation stalls, give it a moment and suggest other ways of thinking and talking.
  • Accept discomfort: When a person shares personal experiences or contributes an idea, they risk being vulnerable. Acknowledge it will be uncomfortable by creating a safe space for conversation.
  • Practice humble listening: Resist the urge to evaluate, judge and control the conversation; listen with a view to learn and understand other’s perspectives.
  • Promote empathy: As differences arise, try to understand what the person might be thinking or feeling and acknowledge it. Being encouraging and supportive gives them permission to open up.
  • Admit mistakes: Transparency in communication is a must. If you make a mistake, own it. You won’t always say the right thing, but being accountable builds trust in any situation.

Each one of us has a role to play in cultivating an inclusive environment. Take an active role by encouraging different perspectives and opinions when collaborating, and by including ethnicity and race in conversations with your team. This will reinforce that diversity of culture, origin, and faith contribute to the happiness of your workforce and the success of your company. 

Topics: diversity, culture, inclusion