Being Left out Hurts -That’s why Inclusion Matters

With the world of business knee deep in either engaging (or discussing the effectiveness of) diversity initiatives — with varying degrees of change as an output, it occurs to me that perhaps our current approach is flawed from the outset.

Mention the sullied D word and if you don’t fall into one of the marginalised groups whose entrance and progression within industries such as finance and technology is thwarted, then the likelihood is you clam up, become mute for fear of saying the wrong thing and possibly even feel some level of resentment. This of course only goes to perpetuate the very issue we are seeking to rectify, layering yet more division on an already compartmentalised quandary.

There has been much rightful ado about the need to include the newly excluded majority in the diversity conversation if change is to be tangible and sustainable, but even that throws up the question as to whether you can truly penetrate ingrained habits and perspectives with coaching and group bonding sessions. I think not.

The only way to truly engage the masses is by identifying the common denominators which bind them, and when it comes to creating inclusivity in business, it’s antithesis — exclusion, could hold the key to unlocking this progressive and productive business ideal.

As a society normality, has been showing up to work in our representative cloak. Interaction amongst our peers and team is limited to whatever the environment says is safe to reveal. In a forward thinking creative industry this might mean that difference is celebrated and individual nuances embraced, but even there cliques and parameters exist because of our evolutionary psychological drive to form groups. Research has shown that in corporations — particularly where management is weak, cliques are at their most potent.

But what if a host of brave new world leaders were to create working environments where vulnerability was a possibility? Where they lead by exposed example, not naked but real, no representatives welcome. Then guard down, they opened a conversation about how it feels to be excluded. Provided their own example of a time when they had been an outsider and described how that felt, before turning the conversation over to the group.

By fast tracking through our surface level, superficial differences and introducing ourselves to one another on a human level in a context in which we can all relate, a valuable space in which new bonds can be formed, understanding reached and the slow shifting of perspectives, becomes a possibility. Understanding each other’s stories dissolves interpersonal barriers. We can all recall a time when we did not feel we belonged and its impact on us. If we can get our heads around that, then we can get our heads around why diversity and inclusion is important. And if we are not entirely self motivated, then we can commit to taking personal responsibility for doing our bit to make sure those to whom our reach extends, are included in our organisation and beyond.

As we move forward, emotional intelligence will serve a greater purpose than academic and technological intelligence — it’s our greatest untapped resource.

Leadership is needed in helping today’s dominant group embrace tomorrow’s reality and communication is the key. But more than that, communicating from a rich state of vulnerability can, and will change the game.

  • Jessica Huie MBE is Director of Kaleidoscope