4 Tips to Help Workers From All Walks of Life Feel Welcome

This article comes from Entrepreneur.

4 Tips to Help Workers From All Walks of Life Feel Welcome

Everybody should be comfortable at work but many minorities feel like outsiders in their own offices.

1. Run toward discomfort rather than from it.

Before people of all stripes can feel comfortable being themselves at work, they need the opportunity to express how and when they feel tempted to hide their true selves. To get the ball rolling, create visibility without confrontation. You might, for example, designate a board at work where people can tack up notes about times they felt pressured to be someone else. Once workers are comfortable using it, host a regular roundtable. To avoid accusations, ask everyone to use “I” statements, such as, “I felt uncomfortable when…” rather than, “Bob made me feel uncomfortable by…”

2. Describe the business case for diversity.

Culture comes from the top, but too many workers think their leaders merely pay lip service to diversity. The reason is that diversity programs are long-term plays: They might make the company more equitable in the long term, but they don’t solve the here-and-now problem of workers who don’t feel welcome. So what can you say to convince them you actually care?

Explain to team members that you have a horse in this race: Companies with more diverse management teams than average report 19 percent higher revenues, thanks to increased innovation, than their peers. Firms in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to post financial returns greater than their national industry medians, while those in the same range for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to do so.

3. Set up an anonymous tip system.

Despite your best efforts to open the conversation, some workers will be more willing to speak up than others. Particularly for skittish team members, use an anonymous reporting system to understand how they feel and what might make them more comfortable.

How, exactly, should such a system work? Take your cue from media groups, which use encrypted tools like SecureDrop to protect the identity of those who submit leaked documents. When you receive a tip, take action quickly. Bring complaints to your HR team to determine next steps for each allegation, and share compliments via email.

4. Promote cross-demographic relationships.

Believe it or not, diversity training often triggers a backlash against the very groups they’re trying to include. Rather than try to force diversity on yourself or your team, simply expose yourself to positive examples of the group in question.

If employees aren’t doing so by choice, you might need to nudge them toward exposure. Mentorship is a great place to start. Not only can pairing mentors from different backgrounds help traditionally disadvantaged groups gain leadership roles, but it helps both parties better understand how others perceive them.

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