You’ve seen the global discussions on “Black Lives Matter” following the death of George Floyd in the US. Those discussions have spurred a renewed focus on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. I’m excited about the focus that leaders are putting on having open conversations about the work environment.
I was a guest on a recent LinkedIn Live broadcast hosted by Yekemi Otaru, Co-founder at Doqaru. I was on the panel alongside mental health and wellbeing expert, Caroline Ribeiro-Nelson and Spirit Energy D&I Director, Susan Grayson. We spoke about diversity and inclusion in the workplace and its impact on mental health.
It’s worth clarifying that diversity in the context of this blog refers not just to people of a different race but also to people with distinguishing characteristics and experiences. This blog highlights some of the key themes of that discussion.
How are some of the Manifestations of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace?
Diversity and inclusiveness, or lack thereof, manifests in many different forms. It appears in the way employees see and feel about their workplace. As a leader, you need to be wary of showing more empathy towards your “in-group”. Consciously extend this empathy to all employees and avoid making assumptions. Here are some thoughts from the panel.
– Caroline suggests that leaders should observe whether people from diverse backgrounds are part of strategic and operational decision-making. If they aren’t, create an environment where all employees feel comfortable partaking in or contributing to discussions and decision-making processes. As Caroline notes,
“If you don’t hear diverse voices, you don’t listen to them and they don’t make an impact.”
– Susan warns that those who happen to be in the majority group can fail to spot a lack of diversity. You might think that a company is diverse because it is comfortable for you but you have to stay conscious of whether you are in the majority group. Leaders need to be listening to how their team members feel especially when they are remote working. You also have to step into other people’s shoes and have empathy. Otherwise, you’ll be unable to understand how it feels for the individuals in your team who might be in different minority groups.
– In my view, the culture of the organisation is crucial. People need to feel a sense of belonging, one which members of minority groups often do not feel when they join a workplace. On top of listening, leaders must avoid making assumptions about employees. It might be easy to think that one person from a minority group speaks for everyone within that group. Yet, their own lived experiences can be very different from person to person.
Supporting the creation of a more diverse and inclusive workplace stems from recognising employees from minority groups as individual beings who deserve your time and empathy.
What is the Impact of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace?
The panel talked at length about how to spot a lack of diversity and inclusion in an organisation. We also discussed what leaders can look out for so that they don’t overlook crucial signs of disengagement and exclusion. I’ve summarised these in the previous section.
Our conversation moved into the areas that become affected by a lack of diversity. Mental health is one of those areas. Here are a few of the points raised by the ladies on the panel.
– Caroline explained that when people don’t have a sense of belonging, they feel uncomfortable. Excluding people can have detrimental effects on their mental health. As humans, we all want to feel connected. When you don’t feel valued, heard, or part of a community, it increases your sense of disengagement and you start withdrawing. You can feel as though you are not worth anything.
– This leads to being unproductive and a lack of connectedness. It can be a result of the mental health impact and a sense of “giving up” because “no one listens” so “what’s the point?”.
– Grayson added that arguably the greatest negative impact is on innovation. You should be allowing people of different perspectives to express their ideas, however, different these may be. It gives innovation and creativity a space to foster and grow.
The core of creating a diverse and inclusive workplace starts with ensuring positive employee mental. Strive for a safe work environment where everyone feels comfortable to share their opinion.
Creating a safe, comfortable, open-minded environment is at the heart of allowing diversity and inclusivity to thrive. As the leader, you should support all your employees in being their full potential in the workplace. This support and attention must be unhindered by the societal groups that they may fall into.
To watch the full panel discussion, follow this link to the LinkedIn live. https://www.linkedin.com/posts/yekemi_linkedin-live-diversity-inclusion-mental-activity-6689483755633082369-82Xo
If you’d like to find out more about leading diverse teams and how you can create a more inclusive work environment, get in touch on 07980 838945. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be delighted to talk with you.