Can a massively important subject be simplified into a single question?
Some very, very important conversations have started to shape the debate about organisational design and people policy over the last few years. Diversity and inclusion as a subject has thankfully passed the ‘buzzword and tick-box’ phase in most organisations as the value (commercial and moral) of diversity in all its forms is broadly recognised. Don’t get me wrong… there’s still a long way to go.
For example, researchers have found that the risk of workplace bullying is more than double among ethnic or racial minorities compared to white respondents (Fox & Stallworth, 2005). Also, bullying and harassment at work have been shown to disproportionately affect minorities and protected groups, and where an individual is a member of more than one protected group, the probability of being bullied spirals upwards (Berdahl & Moore, 2006).
When I think of evidence like this along with all the positive work and initiatives that we come across during our work with Rambutan’s amazing clients, I’m drawn to philosophically oversimplifying the issue. Forgive me for this and indulge me a moment. Isn’t this all about the extent to which people (all people) feel they belong somewhere… country, society, neighbourhood, workplace? Shouldn’t we use this question to inform us as we devise our workplace strategies for inclusion and engagement? Shouldn’t we simply measure this question to give us the ultimate indicator? Should all leadership development start with this question? Shouldn’t balanced scorecards and employee surveys give us pretty graphs and pie charts showing to what extent people feel they belong?
I could go on but will instead look at the question from the other end of the telescope. For ‘person A’ or ‘people in group B’ to feel they belong, doesn’t everyone else in the organisation have to truly believe that ‘person A’ and ‘people in group B’ belong too? It would be a brave CEO who asked their organisation to what extent everyone believed that other people, with certain protected characteristics ‘belonged in the organisation’ as it might start the wrong debate, but my central point remains… at Rambutan we want everyone to feel like they belong regardless of any diversity labels that recent or ancient history may have given them.
If you’ve read this far, thanks for indulging me. People often talk about ‘humans’ search for meaning’…may I cheekily add ‘and belonging’?