Inclusion, Part 2: Changing the Culture

Inclusion, Part 2: Changing the Culture

Working at self-reflection tasks and being open to learning new approaches are the very first steps to making your work environment more inclusive. But no one can single-handedly change a workplace to make it more inclusive. Changing culture is a group effort and everyone has to be up to the challenge, says G. Rumay Alexander, EdD, RN, FAAN, clinical professor and director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Once your team has taken the necessary first steps to assess how they can make changes in their own thinking and their own approaches to work, what are the next steps?

1. Set the Standard

“Begin with a commitment to be decent with one another,” says Alexander. “Do not demean one another. Disagree without assaults on another’s self-esteem.” The rules of engagement are especially important here. “’Say, ‘We will agree to disagree.’”

2. Begin the Conversation

Understand that inclusion and respect mean something different for everyone. And differing opinions don’t always make for a comfortable discussion. One of the biggest workplace myths, says Alexander, is that workers make up a big, happy family. “If we are one big, happy family, then people have to swallow their feelings and deny their differences. That denial makes for a very unstable foundation for inclusion to occur.”

3. Value Opinions

Inclusion means just that – including everyone in the picture and respecting what they bring to the table. Your colleague may not think the way you do, but that diversity of opinion and method creates a realistic picture. As colleagues, you will not always agree, but you should cultivate an environment where everyone feels safe enough to express an opinion.

4. Accept the Strong and the Weak

We all excel at something, and we all have our weak points. An inclusive work environment means that wishing and hoping for a cure all to disagreements is replaced by an honest effort to accept others’ gifts and capacities, says Alexander. Inclusion endures weaknesses and strengths. Each person brings something different to the table and all of those things are valuable. Alexander recommends asking, “What can we use and how can we make it work for us?”

5. Realize Some Things Take Time

Quick answers make everyone happy if they work, but finding a solution rarely works out that way. Make sure your team knows it’s OK for them to admit they don’t have the answers. Part of the process includes saying you don’t know what to do and then investigating so you find a way to do what’s needed.

Changing your culture to make it more inclusive requires lots of work – both as an individual and as a team member. But taking the time to put in the extra effort means any changes you make are likely to be long lasting and beneficial.

Inclusion, Part 1: Your Role in an Inclusive Work Environment

Inclusion, Part 1: Your Role in an Inclusive Work Environment

Inclusion tops the list of many workplace must-haves. But what exactly does inclusion mean?

According to G. Rumay Alexander, EdD, RN, FAAN, clinical professor and director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, when people talk about inclusion they can’t ignore one very important fact – inclusion means something different for each person.

“You have to define terms and explore it and explain it a little more carefully,” says Alexander, who recently moderated the American Nurses Association webinar Diversity Matters: Create an Inclusive Nursing Culture that Leads to Better Outcomes. “A prime example is that people talk about respect. The fact of the matter is that ten different people have ten different definitions of respect.”

How can you begin talking about inclusion?

1. Define It

Nurses excel at critical thinking skills, says Alexander, so sitting down to talk about what inclusion means in your workplace should be the first step.

2. Think About What Inclusion Means to You

Self-awareness is so key to the work of an inclusive space,” says Alexander. “Understanding and knowing yourself is important. Know what pushes and doesn’t push your buttons.” Use honest self examination of your biases and prejudices so you become aware of them and realize how they could impact your work. Everyone has had different experiences, says Alexander, and each of those can change your outlook. The important work is understanding how that happens and making sure it doesn’t invade your work.

3. Be Willing to Change

When you do some honest reflection, you might realize where you need to make changes. That’s not a bad thing. Almost everyone needs to do something better, so having an open mind and understanding that you are part of a team trying to change takes the personal sting out. Be willing to learn. “Understand that your private decisions have public ramifications,” says Alexander. “You can’t talk your way out of what you behaved your way into.”

4. Change Your Culture

Culture will trump strategy every time,” says Alexander. If everyone isn’t on board, any changes and any strategies put in place won’t hold. Understanding workplace culture means understanding who shapes the culture and how they interact. “You have to understand culture,” says Alexander. “Culture is the way you approach your work.”

5. Be Patient

You have to understand when you are changing culture you are dealing with a process and that takes time,” says Alexander. A new environment won’t happen overnight, but it will happen with self reflection, new approaches, and honest and open communication.