5 Ways to Guarantee Exclusion on your Diverse Team

In my attempt to help people understand the significance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, I have elected to use satire in explaining the Perception of Exclusion, as a necessity for Inclusion. Hitlan, Cliffton, and DeSoto, quoting Leary(2001), explained that “exclusionary behaviors may take many forms, including giving another the silent treatment, unrequited love, being shunned, ignoring another, and outright rejection”. They proceeded to define workplace ostracism as “the exclusion, rejection, or ignoring of an individual (or group) by another individual (or group) that, hinders one’s ability to establish or maintain positive interpersonal relationships, work-related success, or favorable reputation within one’s place of work” (Hitlan, Cliffton and DeSoto — Perceived Exclusion in the Workplace). So much focus is placed on exclusionary behavior, such as those identified above, but the perception of exclusion is equally as important. 
Organizations have focused on discouraging exclusionary behaviors, such as bullying, retaliation and harassment in the workplace. This article should help identify subtle and counterproductive ways in which Organizations, Team Leaders, and Human Resources Personnel, can unintentionally guarantee perception of exclusion amongst employees in the workplace. I will conclude by connecting my views with the human needs for “Love & Belonging” as identified in the Maslow Hierarchy of needs, as a premise for motivation and self actualization.
1. Do the barest minimum for diversity and inclusion. As more organizations push for initiatives around diversity and inclusion, it is easy to be oblivious to the significance or consequences of your approach. Why do you need this goal? After all, most of the people on your team look the same, and no one has reported any behavior that requires discipline. D&I is just another buzz word, and a vague initiative should be sufficient. You do not have to research the meaning, and implications to the people who work for you. Shift the focus away from true diversity, by framing an alternative buzz word, for example “Diversity of Thought”. Instead of focusing on the things that truly makes us different, such as, Race, Religious Faith, Gender, Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, Political Ideology, Disability, Generational Gap etc. you can choose to address personality type/differences, such as, Strengthsfinder, Myers Briggs personality test, etc. These are ways for people who are already walking on eggshells at work, or those who feel like dogs in the land of wolves, to confirm that things will never get better, so they either bury their heads in the sand, or leave.

2. Do not acknowledge or celebrate all forms of diversity on your team. Assume that every member on your team is the same, because they belong to the same race, same gender, and same religious faith. This is a quick way for those that identify with attributes that makes them different, feel disregarded, and lose a sense of belonging in the group. When you become aware of all the diversity that exists on your team, pretend like it is insignificant, and talk to them about everything, except what makes them different. After all, people do not like talking about what makes them different, and how different of an experience they have had because of it. Avoid “awkward conversations” at all cost.

3. Promote educational training for everything but Diversity and Inclusion. As you provide your employees or teams, with the tools and training they need to be successful on the job, unintentionally forget to give them the tools and training they will need to succeed in interpersonal relationships in the workplace. When you see your team disintegrate into sub-teams, because the people who have more in common, decides to only talk to or interact with each other, and not those that are “different” even in the subtlest form, encourage it by doing nothing.

4. Be oblivious to cultural backgrounds on your team. Your mission is to create a unified team striving towards an aligned goal and this requires every member of your team, letting-go of any form of distinctiveness and the backgrounds that informs it. Their cultural backgrounds are irrelevant, because the focus must be on the goal they were hired to achieve. You do not need to understand the cultural background of your employees, their lives, and interests outside of work. The time wasted on learning about your employees and what is important to them, the less time they have to spend on the job they are paid to do.

5. Do not create avenues for your employees to learn about each other’s backgrounds and stories. Do not encourage your employees to interact outside of the work setting, this will only enable them to gossip about you, and/or irrelevant things that adds no value. Employees’ passions that do not directly add value to the work project, are irrelevant, and are not worth knowing. Everyone on the team should have the passion to meet their goals, any other interests that they may have, can be left at home and should not come to work with them. All you and your employees need to know about each other are names, work and academic history, awards, names and number of kids, and hobbies. Any other personal information besides the aforementioned, is intrusive. “We are here to work, not make friends”

This article is written as a satire, to draw attention to some of the subtle actions or inactions, that sometimes pass as inconsequential. However they are very impactful in determining inclusivity on our teams and organizations. After human basic needs (Psychological and Safety) have been met, the third level of need is social and involve a sense of belonging. As a social being, we are always seeking connections and community, and the absence of these leaves us disconnected and unmotivated. An inclusive community (workplace) broadens our knowledge of the world, introduces us to new ways of thinking, and enables sharing of experiences to build empathy. Perception of Inclusion is the feeling that we are seen for all that we are, loved and respected for all that we represent. Diversity and Inclusion initiatives that do not promote authenticity, are flawed and inadequate. For every member of a team to have a sense of belonging in the workplace, they must assume their full attributes, their cultures (way of life) must be acknowledged, and their passions and the stories that informs them should be shared amongst the team. You never know, individual stories might just inspire another, and you will end up with a fully inspired and motivated team.