Elevate Your Team Dynamics: Why Inclusion is More Than Just Happy Hour

May 02, 2023
Inclusion is more than a happy hour

You know those events where you get invited and you want to want to be there, you know you should mingle, network, put yourself out there with your team… but you just don’t feel like it. 

What’s the gap?

It’s not that you’re not social or not fun enough, it’s that there’s likely a gap in how much of a sense of inclusion and belonging you have on your team. And a pizza party or happy hour isn’t gonna fix it. 

The truth is, as the 20k learners who took my LinkedIn learning course “A Manager’s Guide for Inclusive Teams” have discovered, inclusion is more than a happy hour, and to create a sense of inclusion that results in people wanting to spend more time together, we have to change the way we work. 

But as with all of the strategies I talk about, these aren’t major overhauls, these are subtle shifts that have immediate and lasting impact on your team. 

As I reflected on my experience as a woman in tech, and connected with others across different companies and industries, I found that when three aspects were true, we felt included. That’s what I talk about in this week’s episode of Managing Made Simple, "Episode 34 Inclusion Is More Than a Happy Hour," and what I’ll walk you through today.


Access to information & decisions

Knowledge is power, and when we feel out of the loop around the information we need to do our jobs, we feel excluded. Same with decisions - when we know our perspectives, experience, and expertise aren’t factored in, we wonder why we’re on a team. In contrast, teams that value transparency and open communication, share the process for how they make decisions and incorporate the perspectives of their teams have a stronger sense of inclusion. 

Putting it into action: be as transparent as possible by default, granting open access to documents, sharing insight into your decision making process, and communicating how decisions are cascaded down

Safety in taking risks

This essentially IS psychological safety, and it’s important to remember that the cost of mistakes can be much higher depending on your identity or intersectional identity factors. Make it safe to take risks by amplifying ideas in meetings and conversations, talking about mistakes openly, and valuing a culture of learning and experimentation.

Putting it into action: host brainstorms or “pre-mortems” to discuss risks and action planning for projects before they get started, calling as many people into the conversation as possible. This allows more voices to get into the conversation, share “wild ideas” and blue sky thinking, and discuss risk mitigation strategies while the tensions are low

Rewarding all kinds of work

We’ve all been in those situations where there’s an A Team and a B Team, and it’s no secret when you’re on the B Team. Demonstrate ALL of the work on your team is important and values by talking about it, showcasing it, and recognizing it. 

Putting it into action: In Town Hall meetings, showcase work that often is more behind the scenes (customer service, quality, ops) so that you are walking the talk that it is important.

When we do these things, we lay the foundation for people to feel valued and it puts inclusion at the center of how you operate as opposed to being something you think about at the end. 

I would love to hear from you - what other strategies have you seen be effective on teams to foster a stronger sense of inclusion?

And if you want to bring this workshop to your team, send me a direct message. The teams I've shared this with find it incredibly impactful to have concrete strategies to deploy right away to start creating a stronger sense of inclusion. If you're on a team where people say "I care about this, but I don't know what to do. Tell me what to do, and I'll do it," then this answers that question.

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