Updated: May 3, 2019
We all know what it feels like to be excluded – the physical pain of not being invited to a party or not being welcomed to the table. Imagine if you had that visceral feeling every day at work.
We all know what it feels like to be excluded – that physical letdown of not being invited to a party or not being welcomed to sit with others at the lunch table at school. Luckily, most of us found people we could relate to back then and survived those unpleasant experiences. But the sting of rejection stays with us.
Many researchers, including MacDonald and Lear (2005) have concluded that the same neural pathways that include the dorsal anterior cingulate react to social pain similarly to physical pain (Psychol Bull. 2005 Mar;131(2):202-23). Eisenberger and Lieberman at UCLA developed SPOT – the social pain overlap theory to describe these reactions.
So, imagine if you had that visceral feeling every day at work. Imagine walking to your desk every morning feeling that pain because you don’t feel you belong. You work in an environment where your differences, whether they are based on your gender, religion, race, ethnicity, age, life experiences, etc., are not accepted or appreciated. Not feeling included, feeling like the outcast, will elicit those pain responses. Those physical and emotional reactions are likely to negatively affect your performance and wellness, as well as your contribution to the success of your teams and organization.
Diversity can be achieved through hiring that considers an array of physical and personal differences and characteristics. It is often more management driven and can be more easily defined.
Inclusion is more complex. It means creating an environment that respects the individuality of all and celebrates these diverse attributes and perspectives. Inclusion often means confronting unconscious biases and changing social norms and cultures. Inclusion requires integrating an approach with a set of principles and practices that advances humanity across the barriers created by isms. Inclusion is a process of change. Just like changing a bad habit or learning a new skill, change does not occur with a one-off seminar or retreat. It is achieved over time with positive change reinforcement and a desire to become a better person. We can each strive to be more respectful and accepting of differences – to understand the perspectives and life experiences of others. But to be successful in the workplace, such change and advancement of inclusion requires organizational and leadership commitment.
Studies abound that show how organizations that have achieved inclusive workplaces increase productivity, profitability and employee retention. To me, it seems obvious, if your staff is feeling positive about their workplace, co-workers and are not suffering the painful effects of ostracism, they are more likely to bring their best selves to work and live more fully.
Cathy Holt, Co-Founder & Lead Facilitator
DEI Consultants, LLC