How does one develop a sense of belongingness at work? How do we know we are creating and/or supporting an inclusive environment? This topic has been on my mind recently and I have been intrigued by all of the different viewpoints and perspectives around whether or not someone can feel this sense of belongingness at work.
Wasserman, et al (2008) argues that building a culture of inclusion involves a new set of leadership qualities and skills including flexibility, fluidity, self awareness and mindfulness, courage and the capacity to be vulnerable in a powerful way (p. 160). Gotsis and Grimani (2016) feel servant leadership is inclusive through helping diverse employees feel empowered and valued, fostering equitable, socially responsible and more humane workplaces, as well as by being more sensitive to various social expectations (p. 986).
So - there is a lot here. Back to the question of whether or not we can develop a sense of belongingness at work, I feel the answer is yes. As leaders, it is about the people. Who are your team members? What makes them unique? How can you foster their personality in a manner that allows them to feel valued? To answer these, lets look at what servant leadership is about:
Servant leaders focus on empowering and developing people
Servant leaders are humble
Servant leaders are authentic and encourage their teams to be the same
Servant leaders demonstrate interpersonal acceptance
Servant leaders provide direction
Servant leaders are good stewards
Simple, right? I want to say, anyone can do it as long as you accept people for who they are and truly care and treat them as people. However, I realize and understand there are biases and other barriers that make this extremely difficult to simply apply.
Greenleaf's best test for servant leaders is" The best test [of a servant-leader], and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?
Go back to the 6 servant leadership behaviors I mentioned above and think about which of these you do on a regular basis. 1, 2, all 6, none? Regardless of where you are today, how do you think your working relationships and working environment would change if you leveraged these six behaviors?
Take work out of the equation, how would your personal relationships change if you leveraged these six behaviors?
We all want to be heard, valued, and appreciated. We have the ability to create environments where belongingness and inclusivity are present. We have to make the choice to do so, however. Is this different than what we have been taught? Yes. Is it impossible? No.
Now, you don't have to take all six of these behaviors on at once. Instead, I offer the following:
How can you empower and develop those you interact with?
How can you demonstrate humility?
What does authenticity mean to you and how can you show this to others?
What are your biases? How do they affect your relationships?
How can you provide direction for others?
How can you be a good steward of others and society?
Pick 1 - any of them. Pay attention to your behaviors and pay attention to any differences you see when you behave in one of the ways provided.
I welcome your thoughts and questions. If you want to learn more, please listen to my latest podcast where I expand on why we need to be more open to others' viewpoints.
Gotsis, G. and Grimani, K. (2016). The role of servant leadership in fostering inclusive organizations. (p. 985-1010), 35(8). Journal of Management Development.