Brene Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness- centres on Maya Angelou’s quote on belonging” You are only free when you realise you belong no place- you belong every place- no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”
In a workplace, belonging is not just about individuals mindsets- or deciding to get along and eventually belong. Workplace structures, cultures, and groups drive a culture of fitting in vs a culture of belonging.
Several corporate leaders adopt a FIFO approach to Diversity & Inclusion and workplace culture- “fit in or flee$% off’. This tends to shut down opposition and backlash- and it tunnels underground instead. Companies with fear-based cultures don’t allow employees — and therefore their business — to thrive.
We need to create workspaces where people feel psychologically safe to communicate diverse perspectives- in a respectful way. When we “fit in” as opposed to “belong” in workplaces, we acclimate to the situation instead of standing for our own views and perspectives. People hear biased comments all too often in their everyday workplace interactions. The price of disconnection or ‘not belonging’ can be high when we ask people to call out bias.
Brene Brown’s research found that men and women who have the deepest sense of true belonging are those who have the courage to stand alone or risk disconnection to maintain their integrity and to stand up for what they believe in.
There are uncomfortable moments when we are working with different backgrounds and perspectives to our own; sometimes we come from a place of reaction, or we don’t recognise our biases in action and we seek to shut down alternative views. Often stressful feelings are heightened — loss of control, the interruption of power, fear of failure. Leaders can unconsciously respond to perceived stress with behaviours that reveal their struggle to adapt to the very change they are championing.
Many leaders want transformation to happen at unrealistic speeds; with minimal effort, and everywhere but within themselves.
As leaders, role modelling inclusive behaviours for cultivating belonging means:
- getting comfortable with being uncomfortable
- mindful listening
- learning how to be present with others in difficult conversations.