How can you help managers develop an inclusive workplace for employees?

Posted 25 January 2023 by
Vanessa Bradford

5 min. read

Throughout your career, have you ever felt out of the loop at work or completely disregarded by people in leadership? It probably made you feel undervalued, unappreciated, and even resentful. What you likely experienced in those moments is a lack of inclusion. 

On the other hand, a highly inclusive workplace means that people at all levels feel valued for their unique contributions. This insightful definition of inclusion from Equity Advisor and Executive Coach Aiko Bethea sums it up well:

“Inclusion is creating a space in an environment where people feel like they can actually express dissent, where they can bring their ideas to the table, and it’s not a matter of just feeling welcomed, but also valued: ‘What I say matters. The perspective that I bring matters, my lived experience matters.’”

There’s no question that the demand for workplace inclusion has risen recently – and for good reason. Inclusion gives people a voice, increases engagement, and drives performance. What’s especially promising is that your expertise as an HR professional or leadership consultant can help managers and leaders learn to be more inclusive, and in turn, decrease the likelihood that their team feels undervalued and disengaged. 

People want more transparency, diversity, and collaboration at work

Much of inclusion has to do with interpersonal relationships. A person who experiences inclusion feels both heard and respected by co-workers and managers. 

Perceived organizational inclusion is especially critical as DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) becomes a non-negotiable focus for companies. 

In fact, the Society of Human Resource’s HR Magazine reports that by 2030, new organizational structures will emerge to solely impact employee development and well-being. These new departments will operate separately from HR in that they’ll focus less on the company and more on employees’ lived experiences in the workplace. 

In other words, does the company “walk the talk” of inclusivity? For HR professionals and executive consultants alike, this presents a unique opportunity to help leaders prioritize inclusion now rather than later. 

In a webinar on inclusion, The Myers-Briggs Company’s Dr. Martin Boult walks viewers through what it means to be inclusive, the consequences of an exclusive company culture, and what inclusive leadership looks like. 

Dr. Boult also uncovered the fascinating results of a survey in which people were asked, “What’s one action that would make you feel more included at work?” 

According to the responses:

Respondents also said they’d like to see more training programs/events on inclusion (11%), autonomy and acceptance of who they are (9%), and diversity among managers and senior leaders (7%) in the workplace.

Company culture more important than compensation

From both an ethical and business standpoint, inclusion makes sense. 

The more inclusive a workplace is, the better the company culture. A Glassdoor Survey found that more than half (56%) of people consider company culture more important than salary. If a work environment isn’t inclusive, people leave, disengage, or never apply in the first place. 

Inclusion also significantly impacts employee well-being at work. This matters because well-being is tied to work performance, organizational citizenship, team collaboration, job satisfaction, and company loyalty. To assess this correlation, we asked people to rate how much they feel included by their manager and to what extent they experience positive well-being at work. 

The results show that people who experience high levels of well-being rate their managers as being highly inclusive. 

The opposite is also true. 

People who report the lowest level of well-being at work rate their managers as not very inclusive. 

Our research also shows that it’s specifically the interpersonal behaviors of managers that significantly impact how included employees feel at work (i.e., how well employees’ interpersonal needs are being met). What’s especially compelling is that these interpersonal behaviors and needs can be measured using the FIRO-B® (FIRO) assessment

Originally, psychologist and FIRO developer William Schutz wanted to know what distinguishes high-performing teams from under-performing ones. He found that there are two key differentiators: competence and collaboration. In other words, people need certain skills and abilities to perform job-specific tasks. But once someone is hired based on competence, the next determining factor of success is how effectively they can collaborate with their team. 

Schutz found that successful collaboration is determined by how aware a person is of the different interpersonal needs on a team. To help people gain that awareness, he developed the FIRO instrument based on the theory that all human beings have the following three interpersonal needs:

  1. Inclusion: the need to belong
  2. Control: the need for influence
  3. Affection: the need for connection

To some extent, we all need these three areas to be satisfied. However, the order in which we prioritize them and the way they’re satisfied can differ from person to person. The FIRO assessment summarizes these complexities by determining expressed and wanted behaviors:

Expressed behaviors are the interpersonal behaviors you initiate toward others. For example, expressed inclusion is the extent to which you go out of your way to get people to participate in a meeting. Wanted behaviors are the interpersonal behaviors you want to receive from others. For example, wanted inclusion is the extent to which you expect others to involve you in a meeting. The FIRO assessment measures expressed and wanted behaviors for control and affection as well.

Ultimately, the FIRO assessment measures how people tend to behave toward others and how they want others to behave toward them. By measuring these data points, it unlocks an awareness that helps managers and leaders modify their interpersonal behaviors to increase inclusion. And in a world of public accountability and online review platforms like Glassdoor, inclusion matters now more than ever. 

To stay ahead of the curve, consider becoming a FIRO Certified Practitioner today.

You May Also Be Interested in These FIRO-B Resources:


Posted in