• Leslie Crews

5 Ways To Be A More Inclusive Professional

A manager once told me that they didn’t care if their employees were happy. If their employees weren’t happy, they were encouraged to leave. Now, this is true. If a person is unhappy, free-will allows them to make a life and career change. But it seems that companies everywhere are forgetting that people are their greatest asset, not their product, and not the revenue. Businesses do not run effectively without people. Study’s show that when people enjoy going to work they are more likely to produce quality material, work longer hours, and stay loyal to the company.

I’m not a business analyst, I’m just someone who’s seen behind the curtains, and tries to bring positive energy into every space I enter, but this seems like a simple concept to me. After countless conversations with friends and strangers in elevators, I’ve gathered that everyone is miserable at work. First, it made me immensely sad. Then, it made me wonder why so many people are unhappy in the work force, and what could change this narrative.

Life is already hard. Going to work every day for hours of our lives should not negatively affect one’s mental health. Sure, jobs come with inherent stress that can’t be avoided. The anxiety of holding someone’s heart in my hands or cutting someones cuticles without nipping them, is anxiety that I never want to experience. This is why I’m not a cardiac surgeon or a nail technician. When people enjoy their job, and when the work environment does not add to the stress of performing the task that they have studied for, prayed for, and are paid for; people are happier and gain a sense of fulfillment at work.

But everyone is stressed out, unhappy, and dealing with anxiety. How do we create professional environments where people are happy and fulfilled? How can we be better humans? This isn’t another diversity and inclusion class that the Human Resources department has to organize and encourage people to attend. Inclusion is a practice and diversity is a personal choice. Building and maintaining a positive and inclusive work space is a personal responsibility.

5 Tips To Be A More Inclusive Professional [Human]

1. Remember that inclusion is a practice.

In my career in technology, because there aren’t many women of color in technical roles, there have been countless times when I’ve been the singular black woman in the room. While under-representation comes with its challenges, this is something I’ve become accustomed to. But to a person in the majority, they don’t see the hurdles that a woman like me has to jump through to speak and be listened to during a team discussion. Trying to contribute to group conversations brings back memories of learning how to jump double dutch.

The fear, of getting smacked by the old clotheslines that were turned into jump ropes, was serious. After finding an opening between the ropes, I had to quickly jump in, or risk having a cluster of whelps from the ropes on my face, arms, and legs. Much like the days of trying to be a cool kid jumping rope, I learned to stay cool in these tense professional situations.

Fighting through frustration and fear of potentially getting smacked around (being over talked or ignored) as I try to jump into the conversation during the first available opening. Through the anxiety and waning patience, there’s the added challenge of remembering your thought when it’s finally your turn to speak. Why is contributing to conversations difficult for some people and not others? Not everyone is being included. Instead, although present we’re often treated as bystanders. This isn’t always done intentionally. But take a moment for self reflection. If you are someone who dominates most group conversations, check in with yourself. Are you being inclusive? If the answer is no, it’s okay. Recognize it as an area where you can improve, then consciously work to do better.

2. Be aware of your existence.

Be aware of your existence and how the world views you. For people in the majority, thinking about their racial and gender identities before walking into a new space may be a foreign experience. For those in the minority, our physical identities are often used as an instant respectability barometer.