7 Easy Ways to Be a More Inclusive Teammate

June 29, 2021
Aug 11, 2022
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7 Easy Ways to Be a More Inclusive Teammate

As we celebrate Pride this month in the labs, we’ve been taking a step back to think through ways we can all be more inclusive teammates on a day-to-day basis. We respect people, from the users whose experiences we research to our internal members who make the product possible. How can we approach our work with inclusion?

Importance of Inclusion

While diversity is a fact, inclusion is an act. 

Diversity versus Inclusion

Diversity is about the characteristics that make people unique. Inclusion is about the behaviors that ensure people feel welcome and respected.

For us, inclusion is really important in three areas: 

1. Important to help those we work with feel welcome and respected

We want everyone to be able to bring our WHOLE selves to work. That means not feeling like anyone has to hide part of their identity. That takes effort and detracts from one’s ability to innovate and collaborate.

2. Important for the technology we create 

We want to make sure the solutions we build work for EVERYONE. That means creating software that is accessible for all users and provides a good experience for every user. We work with global companies who use what we build all over the world. It’s also crucially important for our clients to ensure that they’re providing equitable and inclusive experiences to their customers to bolster their bottom line and prevent them from ending up as a major news headline (like in this case of a biased healthcare algorithm). 

Plus, there are many studies that show diversity boosts innovation. If we want to build  

3. Important for us to attract talent

We want to allow those who want to work for us to feel welcome and respected and can add to our culture rather than “fit” in our culture.

7 Ways to Be a More Inclusive Teammate

Here are 7 things we’re trying to focus on to make our team-based environments more inclusive and equitable for everyone, regardless of their background or how they identify.

1. Be open and respectful to others’ perspectives

Be aware of how you talk in a group. Try to avoid talking over and interrupting others. 

Try to create space for other people to share their thoughts.

2. Be an ally and upstander

In group settings, work to make sure all perspectives are heard and help advocate for others who might be more likely to be talked over. You can do this by pointing out when someone is interrupted or by asking for contributions from people who haven't shared during a meeting. Also when someone misattributes a contribution, that’s another opportunity to advocate: "Like Mike said...", correct them "Actually, I believe Joni made that point." 

3. Words matter

Words really do matter and can make people feel excluded when used incorrectly.

Use gender inclusive language. This includes avoiding gender-specific terms to address a group such as “guys.” Here are some great inclusive alternatives (like “party people” which is our personal favorite).

Also use the right pronouns - asking is better than assuming even if it feels awkward. If you aren’t sure, you can always open by sharing your pronouns when you introduce yourself to create space for others to share theirs.  

Another great tactic is to ask a buddy to help call you if you use non-gender-inclusive language. This isn’t someone who is necessarily from an under-represented group, but just an accountability buddy to point out if you inadvertently say something exclusive. You can do the same for them to keep it top of mind.

4. Avoid assumptions altogether

Not all identities or abilities are visible or obvious. You don’t know everything about someone else’s experience or identity. Try to avoid making assumptions about people, and if needed, tactfully ask (see number 7). 

5. Ask yourself uncomfortable questions

Growth is always about discomfort. Like the expression “no pain, no gain,” you have to move out of an easy, comfortable place and into one of discomfort and unease to grow and change. But the end result is worth it - and helps you see opportunities for improvement.

Some examples of questions you can ask yourself to motivate self-awareness: 

  1. How much do I know about people’s experiences that are not similar to mine?
  2. How could my perspectives or beliefs be limiting my receptivity to hearing those of others?
  3. Do I need to share my opinion in this instance? How does it contribute to the present conversation?
  4. How informed am I about the topic of discussion? Do I need to better educate myself before adding my thoughts?
  5. With my words and body language, am I really creating a space for everyone to feel comfortable participating in the conversation?

6. Recognize your privilege - and use it for good

Privilege is a tough one to talk and think about. It can feel very personal or even like an attack to be called out or even recognize your privilege. 

But privilege is not personal at all. It’s a product of the structures and systems within our society, based on political and social constructs, and entirely out of individual control. But privilege is a way a lot of people can help. You can use it to elevate those around you who may not have the same advantages and help give them those experiences. 

7. Recognize your ignorance - and educate yourself

We can all do more to learn about the experiences of people different from ourselves. 

When you encounter areas you’re unfamiliar with, use it as an opportunity to educate yourself. Read, watch, and make yourself open to education from others around you who know more. 

And if you do want to ask people about their identities, ask in the right way. Not everyone may be open to talking about how they identify or their background. One skill we take from HCDAgile is: let the interviewee tell us what's important and give them control of their own narratives. Instead of "where are you from?" to get to know someone, we can ask "What's important for me to know about you?” or “Tell me your story.” If they do seem open to sharing, ask from a place of caring and desire to understand. Don’t make assumptions in your question (like the infamous “But really, where are you from?” If they want to share, you’ve given them the opportunity.

What ways are you working to make a more inclusive work environment? We’d love to hear your thoughts and find ways we can keep improving.

Sources and resources: 

  1. LGBT Pride Month | Library of Congress
  2. Pride | History.com
  3. Origins and Significance of Pride Month | Indian Express
  4. How Did the Rainbow Flag Become a Symbol of LGBT Pride | Britannica 
  5. The Complete History of Pride | Them
  6. 7 Ways to Be More Inclusive in Your Everyday Life | Fair Force Berlin  
  7. How to Make the Tech Industry More Inclusive | CIO 
  8. How to Build an Inclusive Workplace | Kazoo HR 
  9. To Build More Inclusive Tech, Change Your Design Process | HBR 
  10. How to Keep Culture Fit from Killing Workplace Diversity | CIO 
  11. Diversity Confirmed to Boost Innovation and Financial Results | Forbes
  12. 40 gender-neutral alternatives to saying “you guys” | Chicago Now