How does it feel to be excluded?


Have you ever felt excluded?

I’m not just talking about race, gender, age, religion and sexual orientation. Let’s think through some scenarios.

  1. Have you ever been in a P.E. (Physical Education) lesson where there is a team sport (e.g. basketball)? The class is divided into two teams. Each team captain picks their teammates, and your name is one of the last ones to be called? Or,
  2. Your friends want to go to karaoke, and singing is not your cup of tea? Or,
  3. Your colleagues suggest getting drinks after work, but you don’t drink alcohol? Or,
  4. You are taught this new agile thing, visualising your work with colourful Post-it’s, and you’re colour blind?

If you’ve been in similar situations listed above, then you know how it feels. You feel like a nuisance and an inconvenience. You’re not welcomed, you don’t belong, and you can’t contribute. Essentially, you’re being excluded, even though you may be physically there.

Recently, I was in a meetup where the speaker asked all the attendees to turn on their cameras, so that he could see the reactions of the attendees instead of speaking to a wall of black squares. He not only requested, he insisted. The co-host helped by saying, “come on, turn on your cameras, don’t be shy.” The speaker waited for all of us to do so and called out the final two who didn’t. I was one of the final holdouts. I ended up having to apologise that I had a bad internet connection that day. I explained that if I wanted to hear what’s being said or to participate at all, I had to keep my video off. The speaker accepted my explanation, and I was left alone.

I’m sure you have attended many meetings with that request in the past year. How does that make you feel? 

For me, I was upset that I even had to explain why I kept my video off, let alone being called out, and had to voice my explanation publicly. I didn’t feel welcomed. I felt I was only “allowed” to stay because of my reasonable explanation. Apparently, being shy is not an acceptable explanation to the co-host. I was so upset that I couldn’t even focus for the first 15 minutes. After I calmed down, I still didn’t contribute. I only listened.

That meetup had diversity, but there was no inclusion. Do you know that when you make a request like that, it reflects more on you than the people around you? It tells us you need everyone to go the way you are comfortable with, that you’re inflexible and unwilling to try different ways to accommodate others. We are all individuals. We think and react differently; we perceive things and operate differently. We also all have our blind spots. Imagine what brilliant ideas we can come up with if we can harness the wisdom of the crowd, effectively limiting (or eliminating) our blind spots. It can only happen if we learn how to create an inclusive environment. I wrote a post on that if you want a refresher.

Having diversity alone is not enough. No wonder businesses are not seeing the growth and innovation that diversity is rumoured to bring. I also wrote a post on diversity if you want a reference.

If you’d like to know practically what inclusion means in a work environment, come join me on 31 May for an interactive workshop. We’ll explore some common considerations that people fail to realise, even after a year of working from home during this pandemic. We’ll also learn what we can do to make people feel welcomed, accepted, respected, and valued. In the end, people feel empowered to contribute their own perspective and understanding without the fear of rejection and humiliation. Register here

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