Environments of belonging are rooted in individual understanding and accountability. Although it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing culture falls under the purview of leaders alone, everyone at Quest Global is responsible for embedding inclusivity and respect in the workplace.
When we consider that culture is inclusion, we all have a role to play. In fact, healthy workplace culture cannot be achieved without it intentionally ensuring that everyone genuinely feels seen, heard, valued, and included.
One of the primary ways we make those around us feel a deep sense of belonging is through our words. Words matter, and they’re worth getting right.
When we were young, some of us were taught to treat others how we would like to be treated. However, if we take it a step further and strive to treat others how they want to be treated, our minds become open to new perspectives. We become more empathetic. It’s an ethos that puts ownership of culture into all of our hands.
The first step is in recognizing that unconscious bias stems from all kinds of places — our upbringing, our environments, and our lived experiences. In fact, research tells us that many of our decisions derive from this unconscious activity. When we miss the mark or unintentionally exclude others with our words, it doesn’t make us bad people. But when unintentional slip-ups are brought to our attention, we are responsible for how we respond, make the situation right, and grow from what we learn.
Though fostering belonging and inclusion are synonymous with our culture and a core part of my role at Quest Global, I’m still learning daily from how others experience me, both in the workplace and at home. Statements like “upper level” or “bottom of the organization” unintentionally imply that some are less or other than, which does not communicate the equal and inherent value each human being in our organization holds.
This same mindfulness extends to homelife as well. As the father of an impressionable young teen, I’m very aware of the example I set with the words I use. For instance, I try to use “they” when I don’t know the gender pronouns of her friends rather than falsely assuming.
We must fight the urge to feel that these conversations are splitting hairs. People being spoken to and about in the way that they feel most comfortable is of utmost importance and contributes to our shared and collective emotional safety.
As mindful colleagues, we can stay curious about the perspectives of others and educate ourselves on what we don’t know. There are also some basic practices that we can adopt right away. If you’re wondering what a person’s preferred pronoun is or how to pronounce their name, please ask:
“I don’t know how you’d like me to introduce you. How do you introduce yourself?” We may not even have to ask if we are actively listening and observing a person’s preferences.
We will still make missteps, and when we do, the grace created by a willingness to do better can minimize its impact. Make it a habit to acknowledge when you make a mistake. You can even let the person know that you’re making a concerted effort to grow in this area. Progress, not perfection, is our ongoing goal.
These conversations around inclusivity have tangible benefits beyond their moral value. When organizations prioritize inclusivity, not only do morale and innovation flourish, it also helps us attract and keep diverse top talent, which is a company value and priority. Leaders may cast the longest and widest shadow in any organization, but the many virtues of inclusivity are sustained within all of us.
Associate Vice President Culture & Inclusion (DC)