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  • Tamar Balkin

Do leaders need to flip inclusion on its head?

“Liberalism’s great historic idea, ….., is that all people are equal in fundamental status. Liberalism’s defining project over 200 years has been removing race and gender from civic status, from rights and obligations. This is a magnificent vision. Humanity is utterly distinctive, meaning it has ineradicable human dignity, and utterly universal, meaning every human being is equally endowed with rights and obligations.”

Greg Sheridan


Do we like to be different?

“retaining individuality is not only reconcilable with belonging to the group but is also a defining aspect of the group’s identity"

(Jans, Postmes, & van der Zee, 2012).

Social psychologists have found that human beings have a strong need to form and maintain strong and stable relationships with others. This fundamental human need for belongingness is experienced when a person has frequent and positive interactions and a feeling of acceptance in a stable group. In contrast, humans also have a fundamental need to see themselves as unique, differentiated beings. Interestingly, researchers have found that these opposing needs may lead individuals to make incorrect stereotypical judgements about themselves, others, a group and even the organisation.


“She swam by me, she got a cramp He ran by me, got my suit damp I saved her life, she nearly drowned He showed off, splashing around”

Summer nights by Jim Jacobs / Warren Casey (click here for the song)


What actually makes a difference?

“Inclusion within a workgroup is the “degree to which an employee perceives that he or she is an esteemed member of the work group through experiencing treatment that satisfies his or her needs for belongingness and uniqueness”

(Shore et al., 2011, p. 1265).

Researchers have found that policies and practices that create an environment of inclusion can increase perceptions of inclusion and buffer against negative effects created by diversity (e.g., conflict). In addition, the workgroups that incorporate both belongingness (members feeling valued and respected) and uniqueness (viewing diversity as a resource) are more likely to have positive outcomes. Regular readers would know that the leader has the responsibility to create both belongingness and demonstrate they value uniqueness. Visioning and team building can create a shared focus and supporting differing opinions and ideas within the group can highlight the importance of uniqueness. As always creating an inclusive workplace is dependent not only on policies and practices but on the behaviour and attitudes of all leaders, employees, stakeholders, and customers.

“Although prosocial motives and behaviors are intended to benefit others, emerging research suggests that they often have unintended consequences. "

(Grant and Bolino)

Researchers distinguish between three aspects of prosocial behaviour:

  • Prosocial motivation: the desire and drive to benefit others,

  • Prosocial behaviours: the acts that benefit others, and

  • Prosocial impact: the awareness that one’s actions have succeeded in benefiting others.

The evaluation of how inclusive a workplace comes from the accumulation of an employee's day-to-day experiences. Specifically, it is their regular interactions with colleagues, co-workers and all the people around them. Recent research has found the following types of behaviours enable employees to feel included:

  • Behaviour that demonstrates politeness and genuine friendliness

  • Behaviours that prompt a shared experience

  • Behaviours that demonstrate the value for the recipient

  • Behaviours that demonstrate interpersonal companionship care

  • Behaviours that demonstrate acceptance and understanding of the whole person.

Regular readers would know that for all employees to feel included, the behaviour needs to be genuine and consistent. In the words of Kramer from Seinfeld everyone needs to “talk the talk and walk the walk”.

Click here to watch what happened when Kramer participated in an AIDS walk and insists on not wearing the ribbon.

The Charity Walk - Seinfeld


“And now, open your eyes and see What we have made is real We are in Xanadu”

Xanadu by Electric Light Orchestra (click here for the song)


The songs in today's blog are a tribute to Olivia Newton-John. ---------- References: Chung, B.G., Ehrhart, K.H., Shore, L.M., Randel, A.E., Dean, M.A. and Kedharnath, U. (2019). Work Group Inclusion: Test of a Scale and Model. Group & Organization Management, 45(1), pp.75–102. doi:10.1177/1059601119839858. Bolino, M.C. and Grant, A.M. (2016). The Bright Side of Being Prosocial at Work, and the Dark Side, Too: A Review and Agenda for Research on Other-Oriented Motives, Behavior, and Impact in Organizations. Academy of Management Annals, 10(1), pp.599–670. doi:10.5465/19416520.2016.1153260. Shore, L. M., Randel, A. E., Chung, B. G., Dean, M. A., Ehrhart, K. H., Singh, G. (2011). Inclusion and diversity in work groups: A review and model for future research. Journal of Management, 37, 1262-1289. p. 1265). Leonardelli, G.J., Pickett, C.L. and Brewer, M.B. (2010). Optimal Distinctiveness Theory. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 43, pp.63–113. doi:10.1016/s0065-2601(10)43002-6. Jans, L., Postmes, T., van der Zee, K. I. (2012). Sharing differences: The inductive route to social identity formation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 1145-1149. Brewer, M. B. (1991). The social self: On being the same and different at the same time. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 17, 475-482. Niamh Dawson (Saturday, July 9, 2022) How do we include others? An investigation into employee inclusivity. APS 14th Industrial and Organisational Psychology Conference IOP at the forefront: Leading transformative and global change

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