Our words are powerful boosters or blockers of inclusion, belonging, and engagement at work. Many of the words we use are so ingrained that we don't even stop to think about the impact they have on ourselves and others.
Fortunately, we have the power to change this, for good. In the latest session of Conversations at Work, we explored the role that language plays in how welcome we feel in the workplace, and how we can be more intentional about the words we use to create positive experiences for all.
We were lucky to have Lorie Corcuera, Co-Founder and Chief Culture Officer of SPARK Creations & Company Inc., and Dr. Steve Yacovelli, Owner & Principal of TopDog Learning Group, LLC, lead the conversation. With their diverse experiences and wisdom, they shared the ins and outs of building inclusive communities with us.
We all ought to be mindful of the words we’re using as they’re powerful and critical in making people feel like they belong. In the age of the digital divide and COVID-19, our words are even more impactful, precisely because our communication now often takes place on virtual platforms or by text, where different senses or body language are hindered or omitted.
What’s inclusion and belonging at work? We talked about the idea of hospitality in a team setting: making everyone feel welcomed, actively involved, and part of something together as a collective. We identified that openness, vulnerability, and humility are some of the foundational aspects of creating belonging.
And how do our words build or break barriers in the workplace?We discussed jargon that promotes exclusion and discrimination in different industries. Have you wondered why the term “whitelist” symbolizes approval, and “blacklist” connotes threat? Mitigating the consequences of using non inclusive lexicon comes down to adopting a universal vocabulary that doesn’t prioritize a particular group over another. It’s also about understanding context and knowing what’s important to the specific audience you’re talking to.
We explored three core areas using a “full-body approach” to think about increasing inclusion and belonging. This guide walks us through considerations of building connection:
Head: We can choose to think ahead and remind ourselves to put people first by being consciously inclusive. During these conversations though, actively identify and analyze unconscious bias. Train yourself to be self-aware of how you show up by practicing mindfulness.
Heart: Humanizing conversations means applying empathy to all situations, showing genuine care and compassion for others. Vocalizing what love means at work is central to this; for example, what words do we use to express concern and how do they contribute to making others feel included?
Hand: The hand element symbolizes concrete actions and creating impact. For example, know that you have a role in voicing out when you see or hear a situation that requires interference. We also addressed the very real digital divide that compounds exclusion, and talked about what we can do to mitigate this.
To follow our fruitful and inspiring conversation, check out the recording below:
More about Conversations at Work
Whether you’re fully dispersed, remote-first, in the office or somewhere in between, conversation is what ties everyone together in your business. This bi-weekly virtual series opens space for dialog that leads to action in the pursuit of better workplaces. We’ll explore how conversation shapes culture, creates connection, and helps leaders lead. We all have a voice—let’s come together and then get to work.