Every day, we have the ability and opportunity to create a more accepting world. Even small acts of inclusion can have a big impact on making others feel accepted. Click the spaces below to see the many ways you can encourage inclusivity.

Show me how to act inclusively at work

Consider whose voices are (and aren’t) represented

When in meetings where decisions are being made or key topics are discussed, ask yourself, “Who is at the table? Whose voices are missing?” and consider ways to incorporate diverse perspectives into the conversation. If you don’t feel that diverse perspectives are being represented in your organization, have a conversation with your manager to see if you can brainstorm solutions together.

Start a conversation to create deeper connections

Just because you may appear to be different from someone on the surface doesn’t mean you can’t connect. Use the conversation starters on our Questions to Connect page to get to know someone who comes from a different background or has a different perspective than you.  Invite them to grab coffee, or just say hi when you pass them in the hall. By taking the step to have a conversation and make someone feel welcome, you get to know them on an individual level and might even make a new friend. You’ll also be encouraging others to do the same.

A muslim woman wearing a hijab sits on a white bench

“The kindness of this gesture has stuck with me ever since...It meant a lot that they didn’t make me feel uncomfortable or awkward”

Read Ruqayyah's Story

Practice inclusion in informal settings

Look for opportunities to reach out to coworkers who might have different perspectives. Invite them to grab lunch or coffee, talk to them at a company happy hour, and bring them into casual office conversations. Though these approaches can seem small, they can go a long way towards making people feel included and accepted.

Commit to thinking before you speak

We often use insensitive language out of habit or to be funny, not because we intend harm. But, insensitive language – which can include jokes based on stereotypes – can easily make some people feel unsafe or excluded. It is easier to break this habit when you and your coworkers can commit to thinking before you speak — at least reminding each other that “there is probably a better way to say that.” Check out some language to be mindful of in our Questions to Self-Reflect.

 

Use inclusive language

Using appropriate and respectful language helps those around you feel included, and can set an example for the people you come into contact with. For instance, you might ask new acquaintances which pronouns they use for themselves or use the word “partner” instead of boyfriend/girlfriend. Check out this article on communicating to reduce gender bias, and these communication guidelines relating to ability.

Reconsider stereotypes

Stereotypes are oversimplified images or ideas about social identity groups. And while they may seem harmless, they are overwhelmingly inaccurate and can negatively impact decisions around employment, education, the justice system, housing and financial services. For example, older adults are sometimes assumed to be “bad at technology;” if a hiring manager believes this to be true it could hinder someone’s chances at getting a job that requires computer skills. By reconsidering stereotypes and asking ourselves if the assumptions we are making are supported by real evidence specific to an individual, we can work to ensure everyone is evaluated fairly.

Create a culture of listening

Be a role model by making sure that everyone has a voice and that all perspectives are being considered. If you see that certain coworkers aren’t being included in conversations, make a point of reaching out in group settings, like meetings, or follow up individually afterwards. Ask questions to show that you’re engaged. In leading by example, you’re reinforcing within your workplace that every opinion matters.

Offer support

Sometimes letting someone know you are an ally is all it takes to make them feel safe and included. It doesn’t have to be a public display. Take a moment to pull someone aside or send a quick text or email — it can be as simple as saying “Hey, I saw what happened earlier; is there anything you need?” or “I’m always around if you ever want to talk about the way that experience made you feel.” When you chat, always reinforce that they are never to blame if they become the subject of biased behavior.

Use or establish inclusive policies

Work with your personnel director or human resources department to understand the inclusive policies that exist within your organization, and to see if there’s a way to become involved. You may have the opportunity to build on existing policies, or implement new ones. For instance, you can promote diverse recruiting strategies, work to make sure that that physical spaces and processes are accessible to individuals with disabilities, or establish a protocol that encourages the company to observe and celebrate different holidays and heritage months. By amplifying what your organization is already doing, you can help ensure that employees company-wide feel accepted and welcome.

Leverage internal support systems

If you see areas within your workplace that could be made more inclusive, reach out to your HR department or upper management to learn more about what they are doing and share  any additional thoughts or ideas you might have. Schedule a meeting, or send an email with something as simple as “I’d love to help make ___ a more inclusive place, and I could really use your help.” If you can, share clear examples of areas for improvement — and ideas on how to address them. By working with HR and upper management, you’re enlisting the help of people who can make a direct impact on policies and create lasting change.

Join together

Find coworkers who share your goal to create an inclusive environment. Consider forming an employee resource group or taskforce to implement and maintain policies that address inclusion and diversity issues at work. By working together, you’ll have a greater chance of succeeding. The larger your group, the easier it will be for others to practice inclusivity.

Talk about it

If a coworker makes a hurtful comment or poses an offensive question, it’s easy to shut down, put up walls, or disengage. Instead, try to show that you’re committed to strengthening your relationship, and that part of that is communicating about the things that make you uncomfortable. Say something like “Hey, I felt uncomfortable when you said ____ the other day. I’d really like to talk about it with you.”

Recognize or thank people who act inclusively

When someone makes you feel supported or included, let them know that their inclusive and supportive behavior is noticed and appreciated. This type of positive acknowledgement helps everyone to recognize the importance of their actions and encourages them to take more inclusive actions in the future.

 

Anticipate and rehearse

If you think you may find yourself in situations where bias is likely to arise, try rehearsing possible responses like “Do you think some people might find that language hurtful?” or “What information are you basing that on?” Having a few responses at the ready will help you react quickly and confidently when the moment arises.  By responding politely but firmly, you can lay the groundwork for a productive conversation while also making those who are experiencing bias feel welcome.

Encourage feedback

Set up a process – either through email submissions or one-on-one sit downs – that allow your employees to express their needs, ideas and perspectives. Be willing to learn, accept feedback, listen to the concerns of those around you, and implement new practices as needed. Even the most enlightened individuals have room to grow, and you have the ability to establish a culture of openness.

Turn mistakes into growth opportunities

None of us are perfect, and we’re all going to make mistakes at some point. If you do, simply apologize. You can say something like “I’m really sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking and realize that my actions were hurtful. I could make some excuses, but none would make up for telling such a tasteless joke. I hope you accept my apology.” While making a mistake in front of others can be embarrassing, it can also be a perfect opportunity to model an appropriate response.

Explain how bias makes you feel

Instead of labeling a comment as offensive, try to explain calmly how it makes you feel. You might say “I know you didn’t mean to, but that made me uncomfortable because…” or “I’m not sure what you meant when you said that.” By sharing your personal experience, you make others aware of the impact of their actions (even if it’s unintentional) and create opportunities for further discussion.