You're a busy manager and an urgent issue from an important client comes in. What do you do? Simple: delegate it to a member of your team who you trust to get the job done well, and on time? That's certainly the easiest and quickest solution, and probably the one that gives you the best "gut feeling". But is it the right approach if you want to create an inclusive workplace?
Probably not. Our brains are wired to feel more comfortable with similarity, so we naturally gravitate towards our 'people like me' (PLMs) - who we connect with more easily because we have a similar style of communication, background, sense or humour, share a common interest etc. Day-to-day, we are likely to talk to our PLMs more often, for longer, and more informally. We share more of ourselves with them and they do the same with us. With every interaction we broaden and deepen our connection and, crucially, trust grows.
So when it comes to delegating that critical piece of work, or choosing someone to represent you at an important client meeting, you're more likely to choose a PLM. While this is normal and natural, it can of course impact on other members of the team, who are likely to perceive the dynamic as favouritism and create an uneven playing field.
So here are some tips for creating a more inclusive workplace culture:
- Choose someone you have not worked with often to assist you (or another colleague ) on a genuinely important task – remember to set them up well, be clear on expectations, have regular temperature checks, and set up a “buddy” system so that they can ask questions.
- Schedule “stop and think” time in your diary - it only needs to be 5 minutes every week but prioritise it. Take one critical 'people' decision you’ve made in that week and ask yourself, “What factors led me to make this decision?” Write them down and then reflect on them.
- Take one of the Harvard Implicit Association Tests to understand more about your attitudes towards or beliefs about different topics, for example gender/career or religion.
- Gather different perspectives - send one of your team to one of the next “network” group meetings and ask them to report back to the team at the next team meeting. Show your team that you think this is important - if you don't make time for different perspectives, why will they?
- Do not take your phone to the next team meeting. Talk to people instead.
- Ask for feedback on a decision you made last week – task related or not. What do they think of it? Tell the person why you want the feedback so that they are more likely to give you an honest response.
- If you have an idea you want to bounce off someone, ask the person who is the most different from you - be prepared for them to disagree with you!
- When running a meeting, ensure that everyone has the chance to share their views. Remember that people with a more reflective thinking style may not contribute at the meeting, so follow up by email and/or 1:1.
- Slow down your 'people' decisions. Get information before making a decision, so you're less likely to fill in the gaps with stereotypes and assumptions.
- Be approachable, listen more and manage the working environment by calling out behaviour that is inappropriate.
We'll be exploring how to create more inclusion and better mental health in the legal sector at a panel discussion on 30 January 2018. Find further details and registration here.