In our journey to create a sense of belonging, we need to define three important concepts:
When implemented and managed properly, these three components help to achieve a sustainable business by improving workplace performance, satisfaction, and teamwork. Let's see how we can make this a reality in your workplace.
The first step in creating a sense of belonging is to embrace a culture of Diversity. Diversity is the presence of differences within a given setting. For example, you can have a diversity of trees in a forest, a diversity of clothing brands in your closet, or a diversity of colors in a pencil set.
In the workplace, we are referring to a diversity of identities like race, gender, ethnicity, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation. These identities are considered protected classes—identities that have received (and still receive) systematic discriminatory treatment and create advantages and barriers to resources and opportunity.
It is critical to understand that diversity is about a collective or a group (not a single individual) and can only exist in relation to others. A candidate or employee is not diverse; they are a unique, individual person. They may bring diversity to your team, but they, in themselves, are not diverse.
Be Specific and Be Curious
The term diversity is often used as a euphemism. People say, "We are working to diversify upper management," instead of, "We are working to ensure there are more women and people of color in our upper management roles." Stepping away from the euphemism requires us to get more specific and accurate in our goals. It also leads to more practical and precise conversations and strategies.
To make a more effective policy, use specific, person-centered language to help team members understand and appreciate that you are always speaking of and working with unique individuals, not groups, classes, or categories of generic masses.
To make a more positive impact in life, think about people you encounter from a positive space and see them as unique individuals, each with a singular blend of characteristics unlike anyone else in the world. Speak with a genuine curiosity to learn more about the person, not the group they might belong to. Treat each person you encounter as just one human. Forget the category, forget the religion, forget the stereotype; see the special person right before you.
No one wants to answer questions about their thoughts or feelings about what group, or sect, or category they might belong to. No vegan enjoys talking about how they don't eat meat and how they get their protein and iron. No transgender person wants to explain what they are feeling or how hard it must be to "come out" or "be authentic." Just like you don't want to talk about what it is like to be white, or male, or over sixty, no one wants to talk about their group characteristics. We all want to talk about ourselves, our unique characteristics, our opinions, our goals, our aspirations.
Engage with people and ask what they find interesting, what they think matters in the world, what they want most in life.
In the next lesson, we'll discuss the meaning and importance of Equity.