employees practice inclusive behavior at work, female and male colleague sit at table to enable wheelchair access

How to Support Inclusive Behavior at Work

Studies show that inclusive workplaces foster belonging, inspire innovation and boost productivity. According to Deloitte research, inclusive organizations are twice as likely to meet or exceed their financial objectives. They’re also six times more likely to be innovative and six times more likely to anticipate and respond effectively to change.

But true inclusion can’t be lip service only. When employees lack trust in their organization’s efforts, they lose the sense of psychological safety. To make inclusion a permanent part of your company’s DNA, you must understand the difference between inclusive behavior and non-inclusive behavior.

two female employees (one with a mental disability) working in cafe

What Is Inclusion?

At its core, inclusion is belonging. It’s not enough for your organization to commit to hiring, promoting and equitably compensating a diverse workforce. To activate the benefits of diversity and equity, your company must give employees a sense that it values their unique perspectives and insights.


[Examples] Inclusive Behavior in the Workplace

Inclusive behaviors create an environment that provides comfort and support for everyone on your team. These behaviors include:

Giving Recognition

Get to know your employees, paying special attention to how they like to be recognized. For example, not everyone enjoys being the focus of attention during a large meeting. Some might prefer a private “thank you” or even coffee from their favorite local cafe.


Examining Biases

Uncovering your team’s unconscious biases – through training or exercises – can help you and your team learn more about the assumptions you’re not even aware of holding. However, deconstructing bias is a constant struggle and a personal one. Commit to examining your assumptions as they arise and learning about barriers to inclusion like microaggressions and non-inclusive language.


Providing Resources

Make sure your employees have the technology, learning and social resources they need to build inclusive behaviors. Connect your team with employee resource groups (ERGs), employee assistance, online learning and other benefits that allow them to be themselves within the workplace

Remember that workers are deluged with information. Don’t assume that your message made it through the flood. Reach out to your team to understand and highlight the resources they need, when they need them.

Black woman employee feeling excluded in the office

What is Non-Inclusive Behavior in the Workplace?

Non-inclusive behaviors don’t require malice. Consider whether you are inadvertently doing any of the following:

Failing to Be Intentional

Avoid mistakes like not asking for feedback before starting initiatives or starting a DEI mentoring program without asking intended employees what they would like to see. Know that you must promote new programs–don’t assume that if you build it, they will come. Above all, avoid assuming that employees know how to talk about things like race, gender, disability and sexuality in the workplace.


Ignoring Disruptive Employees

Research shows that 19 percent of employees have experienced bullying in the workplace, while an additional 19 percent are aware of it.

The worst thing a manager can do in a situation like this is ignore the problem. Leaders must address and document instances of bullying and other toxic behaviors and commit to preventing future issues by fostering communication and providing training. Likewise, invite your team to share with you times they’ve seen or been on the receiving end of such behaviors.

employees practice inclusive behavior at work, female and male colleague sit at table to enable wheelchair access

Using Exclusive Language

Words matter. Language can either foster a sense of belonging … or the opposite. To ensure that your language is inclusive, create an environment in which learning is encouraged and expected. For example, use people-first language when discussing employees with disabilities (e.g. “teammates with disabilities” and not “disabled teammates”). Regularly using inclusive behavior and language can set an example for employees and leadership.


How to Inspire Inclusive Behavior

Beyond setting an example of inclusive behavior, be intentional in your plans to integrate these behaviors into company culture.


Active listening can help you hear and amplify diverse voices on your team, ensuring that you gain the advantage of every unique perspective. Better still, focusing on listening will show your team that you’re committed to making sure that they’re heard, which will strengthen trust over time.


Build a Sense of Community

Encourage team members to reach out to and build rapport with each other informally as well as in more intentional settings like ERGs and mentorship relationships. “Showing curiosity and compassion about the lives and work of team members” builds allyship in the workplace. Create opportunities for employees to bond and connect. Research shows that employees with a best friend at work are more engaged than those without one.


Integrate Into KPIs

Identify the causes of inequities and create goals that support real change. For example, this learning module from PwC highlights the importance of addressing gender inequity in the recruitment funnel, instead of focusing solely on the gender diversity of leadership. If inclusive behavior isn’t built into an organization’s larger goals, it quickly becomes obsolete. As we know, what doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get done.

two diverse women employees working on project in the workplace

Real inclusion means being willing to do the hard work of collecting feedback, building programs that serve employees and going back to the drawing board when necessary. Commit to evolving your efforts as you learn.

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