The concept of inclusive leadership has been a hot topic in recent times. But a few seem to focus on how significant peer relationships are in our workplace.
The relations between colleagues highly influence a company's overall output. Author Juliet Bourke, who is also an adjunct professor in the School of Management and Governance, University of New South Wales Business School, believes that an inclusive colleague is what can create a meaningful difference in work performance.
In an HBR article about an inclusive colleague, Bourke writes that in academic literature as well as industry practice, inclusion has been conceptualised as a psycho-social experience between an individual and a group. In other words, only a group (or a leader as representative of a group) has the power to make an individual feel fairly treated, valued, respected and connected. But is that really right?
She advocates three ways for an inclusive colleague. Here we guide our readers to the three small ways that help them become inclusive at their workplaces.
Bourke described this behaviour as 'instrumental assistance". This is about helping a colleague in their work by providing them with information, necessary contacts and ideas, giving endorsements in meetings, and sometimes offering suggestions.
These actions do not necessarily fall within the strict ambit of your job description. But they are super helpful for a productive and friendly office environment.
For example, if you had a meeting and your colleagues missed some part of it, or even all of it, why not give him/ her a heads-up of what happened in the meeting instead of waiting until the end of the week to see your colleague to start the project with inadequate information?
This refers to the care, support and personal interest people demonstrate towards their peers, which helps to develop emotional bonds. Bourke gave an example when one junior employee told him about how he and his peer started each day with "some kind of little joke," while many others talked about taking a quick break from the office environment to have a coffee together.
With lockdown and home offices, the opportunity for socialisation has been reduced. But the opportunity to explore your colleagues on a personal level still remains online.
For example, while discussing or brainstorming on some ideas, the co-workers may share some memes or relevant links. This way, while being in a professional setup, a more personal bond develops among the colleagues.
The third behaviour, which Bourke calls 'embodied connection', refers to the ways team members use their physical beings to create and communicate. Through their body language and the sharing of spaces, the co-workers create a closer connection among themselves.
For example, interviewees talked about walking together to meetings, deliberately sitting next to each other, or if a meeting was virtual, sharing their backgrounds rather than using an impersonal corporate photo, and exaggerating positive non-verbal cues such as smiling and nodding.
What is clear about these examples, is that each involved a pint-sized effort. Nevertheless, the impact was profound psycho-socially in terms of feeling included, especially when these micro acts of interpersonal inclusion were accumulated over time.