Published Date: 09/22/2014
By Reneé Watkins
When an employee feels “left out” or excluded from their team or from the organization as a whole, it can have a serious impact on not only the individual, but the team and organization. The negative feelings generated as a result of feeling excluded can affect productivity, teamwork and employee retention. Employees who feel “included,” on the other hand, are much more productive, work harder, are more trustworthy and more loyal to the company.
How can managers ensure that workers always feel included as a part of the overall process and the overall success of the organization?
Start with Management
Sometimes the things we overlook as being small or trivial can mean the most to someone else. Managers must examine and check their own biases and behaviors so as to not make any employee feel excluded or different. This includes making sure they do not overlook, avoid or ignore the biases or behaviors of others, which may come across as “excluding.” For example, a female employee in a recent case cited the fact that, in meetings, one of her male colleagues would only shake hands with the other men, and not with her. This likely was not intended to offend or exclude, but the woman felt excluded as different. Leaders need to recognize how this might be perceived.
Acknowledge the Differences
Employees want to be treated equally with their peers but also want to be recognized for their unique contributions to the team. Granted, it is a thin line management has to walk in order to accomplish both equality and diversity. From an equality standpoint, managers should be blind to differences in race or gender among the members of their team. However, they should not let that blindness prevent them from noticing a female engineer who is never asked to be part of a special project team.
Share the Spotlight
Rotate leadership responsibilities at meetings to give each team member an opportunity to reiterate the value they bring to the team as an individual. Assign some management responsibilities to an otherwise introverted team member in order to build their confidence and bring them more into the group.
Everyone feels valued when someone asks their opinion on a specific subject or decision. Managers should make an effort to seek their employees’ opinions with regard to direction, innovation and decisions whenever applicable. For many there is no greater compliment.
Stay With It
Inclusion is a journey, not a destination. The practice of inclusion and taking note of any absences of inclusion should be diligent and continuous. Employees, as well as managers, should be coached on the benefits of inclusion, how to promote it and how to recognize “exclusion.” Make sure your employees know they can come to you with any observance of what they feel could be either a deliberate or inadvertent exclusion.