Book Report: Inclusion

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I just finished Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace and the Will to Change, a 2016 book by Jennifer Brown of JBC (Jennifer Brown Consulting). I had a kind of odd experience reading it. I’d be all interested in a part, then it would feel repetitious and I’d zone out. That’s unusual for me. There is lots and lots (and let me say it again, lots) of information here that would help any company wanting to increase inclusion and diversity among the workers.

One thing I found very useful was that Brown stresses that the younger people and non-people managers need to be both consulted and listened to, since that’s where the diversity is usually found. Including these voices and perspectives in decision making is one very helpful way to create a more inclusive workplace.

In fact, Brown had a message just for me:

The golden rule, treating others as you would like to be treated, is out. The platinum rule is in: treat others as THEY would like to be treated. You will have to learn to ask what that entails.

(p. 46)

I’ll be revising all my little sticky notes at once.

Since I work with ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) where I work, I especially enjoyed Brown’s history of ERGs and thoughts on their future. She rightfully notes that you can’t just start them and ignore them; they need to be nurtured and their contributions valued. Employees also need to know that the work they do on ERGs reflects well on them. There’s also information on how ERGs may change in the future, once the more diverse and inclusive workspaces become the norm.

Someday all offices will look like stock photos, but maybe with someone over 30 and with a woman doing the talking. Image by @criene via Twenty20.

And then, what do you do with all the straight white cisgender men? Do you leave them out! Not at all! I love how Brown carefully lays out roles and opportunities for participation and inclusion in ERGs for them. She knows perfectly well that a lot of her readers will BE these guys, many of whom want to help make a better workplace for all, but don’t want to be perceived as trying to dominate. I also got quite a few “aha” moments out of a section (which I’d like to share at my workplace) about how helpful executive sponsors can be when they really understand the role and embrace it.

And about those open offices

My little heart welled up with satisfaction when Brown talked about whether the new open-plan offices really spark creativity, foster communication, and increase transparency. This is done for millennials AND because it costs a lot less than cubicles or enclosed offices. A large survey found that the most satisfied workers had enclosed offices. And that wasn’t just introverted technical writers like me!

Let me just slip in that I’ve not been impressed with the industrial/open setup we have where I work, mainly because I so rarely ever see anyone using those open collaboration areas. I’m glad, because when you do, everyone can hear you and it’s disruptive. When we were all together, it was really distracting when everyone around you was on a separate Zoom call, and you could certainly hear everything. So executives would have to go hid in tiny “focus rooms” to talk about sensitive issues, where they could not use their large multiple monitors and other helpful things. Oh well, there I go again.

No where to talk privately, nowhere to hide. My nightmare. I do like red, though. Image by  @Luis_in_nyc via Twenty20

The really helpful parts of the book that I’ve just talked about are why I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in creating a workplace where everyone’s talents, perspectives, and abilities are valued. I did find myself becoming annoyed by how much Brown talks about how great her own company is, and I am not at all sure why, but some of her attempts to share her personal stories fell a little flat with me. You’d think I’d be feeling all empathetic to someone who also wanted to be a classical singer (she did opera, I did choral music) but ruined their voice.

Well, we can’t like everyone right off the bat, can we? And maybe I had too much in common with her, so she annoyed me. I get told I brag a lot, so that’s a grain of truth I’ll mull over. Also, why do I turn everything into self-examination? My introspection can even annoy me!

Here, have a chick break. I think tail feathers are coming in. Here, they are all excited about Star’s food. Go back and eat the chick food!

Back to the book, shall we? It has a glossary that has got to be helpful for Boomers who don’t know all the current words for concepts around diversity and inclusion like cisgender, executive sponsor, LGBTQ, etc. I even encountered some new terms, like this one:

Holacracy: an organizational management strategy in which a company’s governance and decision making are distributed evenly among self-organized teams. Individual employees are viewed as both a whole group and part of a larger group.
[There aren’t many of these, she says.]

(p. 192)

I think many parts of this book are designed to make you feel uncomfortable, and that’s intended. Brown is yet another expert who wants us all to get uncomfortable with discomfort, which is what many groups of people have no choice about. It’s a new world, and it takes flexibility and some vulnerability to embrace the good parts of it, while accepting that it isn’t perfect either.

I figure, I either accept it or I retire, like the remaining few of us younger Baby Boomers!