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How can you help to create a more inclusive workplace?

Posted on Dec 14, 2021

It’s easy as an employee to feel like the responsibility for creating a diverse and inclusive working environment lies principally with your bosses and the organisation at which you work. But the truth is that this is something we all should take responsibility for. Everyone has an influence and there’s a lot we can all do to make our workplace feel accepting, welcoming and embracing of difference.

Here are a few ways that employees can make a difference to the culture and inclusivity of their own workplace.

1. Make suggestions for initiatives you’d like to see

Many workplaces have a CEO Suggestion Box or social media forum where comments are encouraged from staff. Use these platforms to acknowledge and/or celebrate different cultural events or religious occasions. For example, NAIDOC Week could be a great opportunity to recommend a First Nations artist who you’ve been enjoying, such as an author or musician.

2. Be an advocate for the change you want to see

It’s worth looking into what your organisation’s policies are around discrimination and diversity. How does your HR department recruit? Is there a diverse senior management team? Are staff being properly treated when it comes to parental leave? 

Instigating conversations around these sorts of questions with other employees and people in other departments can yield powerful results. A casual question or comment you make might plant a seed and prompt someone in the People and Culture area of the business to completely rethink a policy or instigate positive change.

3. Listen and ask questions

This is a simple one, but it’s all too easy to overlook. Everyone is different and everyone sees the world so differently – don’t be shy to ask your colleagues questions about their past and their background (if you get the sense they’re open to sharing stories of course!). So much can be achieved simply by letting people tell their story and showing a little bit of curiosity.

4. Create new forums for discussion

For example, you could initiate a regular recurring lunch with people from other areas of the business and from different backgrounds to you. Not only is this a great chance to learn more about the work other departments do, it’s also a great chance to make people feel heard and to become a more empathetic colleague. People will appreciate that you made the effort to reach out.

5. Call out inappropriate behaviour

Many of you would be familiar with the adage “the standard you walk by is the standard you accept.” It’s true. It’s important to call out discriminatory behaviour that you see or hear. It’s 2021 – workplace standards have shifted for the better and it’s only going to continue to head in that direction. If for some bizarre reason, you are silenced or reprimanded for calling something out, take the issue higher. 

You have to ask yourself – “if my company is going to sweep poor behaviour under the rug, or make me feel like it’s my fault for calling it out, is this really the kind of place I want to work anyway?”