Can you remember a time where you felt you did not belong?

What about in the workplace?

  • Have you ever felt excluded from a conversation, a group, or an opportunity?
  • Excluded from an invite for coffee or lunch at the ‘cool kids’ table?
  • Or have you ever been in a meeting where no one seemed to want to hear your thoughts or ideas or concerns?

When these things happen, we feel hurt and vulnerable, and as you would expect we tend to invoke our self-protection mechanism which equates to fight or flight.

In the workplace – this might present as combative or unregulated behaviours or as disengagement or presenteeism.

Environments that exclude people are known to hamper learning, growth, ideation and therefore innovation.

Why? Because they are psychologically unsafe and people who feel unsafe and vulnerable will not offer new ideas or suggestions or admit to mistakes or gaps in knowledge for fear of being humiliated, shamed, embarrassed or punished.

These psychologically unsafe environments not only pose an OHS risk but also a business continuity risk. A business that does not innovate to remain competitive will be left behind.

So how can you foster inclusion in your workplace every day – even in virtual environments?

What actions can you take? What behaviours can you promote and model?

Here are five simple ways to lift inclusion:

1. Make sure new staff are thoroughly onboarded and introduced to people. Assign a buddy if you’re too busy to do so, and make sure someone has responsibility for ensuring the new staff member is socially welcomed into the organisation.

2. Create opportunities for people to come together and get to know each other (Zoom still works!). Ask simple questions of each group member such as “What’s your favourite food?” What’s your favourite restaurant in town?” or “What was the type and name of your first pet”.  Help people find ways to connect. Link people that you know have similar interests/circumstances.

3. Make sure your actions are inclusive – avoid exclusive cliques or side hustles or elite invites.

4. Tenaciously extinguish discriminatory actions, attitudes or behaviours – managing your own unconscious and conscious bias and helping others to see different perspectives.

5. In meetings, in group discussions – actively invite contributions from everyone, talking to and involving everyone. Genuinely ask questions such as: “What are your thoughts?” “What other options do we have?” “What have been your experiences in this space?” Avoid closed questions like “Have you got anything to add?’.

Modelling inclusive actions also includes challenging unhealthy behaviours in others. When we see acts of exclusion take gentle steps to make people aware how their actions may impact on the psychological safety of the team, or workplace.

We all have a role to play in creating and sustaining mentally healthy workplaces that are safe and inclusive and enable everyone to thrive.


What steps will you take towards a better culture?

Visit my programs and services page to find out how I help build and sustain mentally healthy workplaces, I’d love to work with you.

Tan x

Tanya Heaney-Voogt

Director & Principal Consultant MBA, ICFACC, MAHRI, Dip Mgt, Dip Coaching, Prosci® Certified Change Practitioner E:

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