December 29, 2020

When was the last time you left a virtual meeting at work and felt reinvigorated? A handful of meetings come to my mind, and each of them promoted inclusion—a sense of belonging and feeling valued.

Whether you have 30 minutes or 90 minutes to virtually connect with colleagues, consider ways you can foster inclusion in the time you have together. Following are four questions to ask yourself or your team to challenge the status quo or to celebrate the inclusive atmosphere you already foster:

  • What signals am I sending about what is valued? Consider what contributions are viewed as beneficial in a meeting. Think about whether and how you praise both those who raise solutions to issues and those who bring up risks. The ways in which mistakes, miscommunications, and lessons learned are handled in meetings can set the stage for what skills and competencies people try to strengthen outside of meetings.
  • Am I offering micro-affirmations? Micro-affirmations are small acknowledgements that someone is valued, included, and cared for. Examples include asking someone if they have an opinion, giving credit to someone’s contribution, offering support to someone’s idea, and taking an interest in someone’s personal life.
  • How are people engaging? With children in remote learning, other family members to care for at home, and mental and emotional needs to attend to, it’s unrealistic to expect every person to engage fully in every meeting. But it’s helpful to be aware of the different ways that engagement may show up and to encourage that engagement. Engagement may include having the video on or using the chat. Note that not speaking is not always a sign of disengagement. Sometimes people need time to process and digest information. If you know someone who consistently does not share ideas in meetings, try inviting them to share written ideas in advance of the meeting.
  • Who is taking space, and who is giving space? You have likely facilitated or participated in meetings where some people are eager to share their thoughts, comments, and questions at any open opportunity, while others hold back. Remind everyone to think about how much space they are taking and giving in a meeting. If someone is interrupting others or if someone is consistently being interrupted, make sure those who were interrupted have a chance to speak.

Fostering inclusion takes consistent practice and attention. Ask yourself these questions periodically to reflect on your practices. What other reflection questions would you ask? Please share below.

 Camille Lemieux is a research associate and member of EDC’s Equity Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which oversees internal initiatives to promote inclusion across the organization.
Capacity Building for Individuals, Organizations, and Systems

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