Latest wrap-up of our webinar with Catalyst on the impact of inclusion & exclusion in the workpl

Contrary to common thinking, inclusion and exclusion are not separate, ‘all or nothing’ experiences. On any given day, employees experience both inclusion and exclusion in the workplace – sometimes even simultaneously, according to a Catalyst study of 1,512 workers from 42 different companies around the world.

This was just one of the many insights presented by Emily Wakeling, Executive Director at Catalyst, and Troy Roderick, Global Head of Diversity at Telstra and Australian Catalyst ambassador, at NEEOPA’s latest webinar on inclusive leadership.

The online session, based on findings from Catalyst’s latest global study on inclusive leadership, focused on the nature of inclusion and exclusion, and how employees experienced both in different ways. Inclusion is an “invisible” quality, said Ms Wakeling, and hard for employers to pinpoint. Surveyed employees reported feeling included when they:

  • had a sense of belonging

  • felt valued for their uniqueness

  • felt psychologically safe to take risks in the workplace

Both presenters warned that diversity does not automatically equal inclusion. While diversity refers to the composition of a work group, inclusion speaks to how an employee is valued because of their difference, as “inclusion is not something that happens to you,” said Ms Wakeling, “it’s something that happens with you.”

In contrast, experiences of exclusion – when an employee is made to feel singled out or ‘other’ because of their difference – are powerfully felt, immediately recognisable, visible and memorable with cumulative effects


They commonly involve:

encounters with tokenism

  • bias and stereotyping in the workplace

  • mixed messages on work-life effectiveness, such as a manager encouraging employees to work from home, yet demanding they give an update of what they are doing every minute of the day.

“If inclusion is like breathing invisible air, exclusion is suffocating,” said Ms Wakeling. “People can have many examples of inclusion throughout their day, but just one example of exclusion will stick out more.”

Both presenters stressed that instances of inclusion and exclusion co-exist on a day to day basis; treating them as separate experiences fails to reflect the employee’s day-to-day reality. Leaders must be equipped to address this reality for inclusion to take root within an organisation. To help this process, some valuable action points raised in the webinar include:

  • Sponsor organisation practices, not programs. Personal connection was the most often cited example of inclusion in Catalyst’s study, so it’s important for managers to attend to the human side of change, not just programs and policies. Part of this is leading with humility, role-modelling inclusive behaviours and heeding the popular saying, ‘putting people first’. “Making that personal connection is very important,” said Mr Roderick. “Relationships really matter.”

  • Amplify inclusion by visibly rewarding inclusive behaviours. Explicitly rewarding behavious holds leaders and team members accountable for creating a culture of inclusion in the day-to-day.

  • Interrupt exclusionary behaviours. Observe which voices are being ignored or dismissed during meetings and interrupt those behaviours. “Actively seek feedback from people who don’t usually contribute,” suggested Mr Roderick.

A full report of Catalyst’s inclusion study is available for download. For more information on future NEEOPA forums and membership, visit our website.

Also, don’t forget to stay connected and continue collaborating with NEEOPA members through our LinkedIn page and Twitter.

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