Fostering an Inclusive Environment

The question that is uppermost on business leaders’ mind is how to foster an inclusive environment as the current environment in the business world is about not tolerating harassment and discrimination. For instance, in recent years, there has been some high profile cases involving senior management figures in the US and in India in matters related to sexual harassment and discrimination. Though the defendants and the victims reached out of court settlements in some cases, the damage done to the reputations of individuals and the companies is immense. This makes the case for fostering an inclusive environment in the workplace and avoiding such incidents that much more important.

It needs to be remembered that having policies in place alone is not enough to prevent harassment. Rather, companies and business leaders must walk the talk and practice what they preach about having an inclusive environment in the workplace.

The first aspect here is the sensitization towards gender, ethnic, and alternative sexualities and orientations that must take place before any meaningful action on inclusivity happens. For this to be actualized, employees at all levels have to be made sensitive to the problems of women, racial minorities, and those who are of alternative sexual orientation.

In many multinationals, explicit training programs are conducted to sensitize the staff on these issues. This is a practice that other companies can follow to have an inclusive environment. Apart from this, there needs to be redressal mechanisms wherein victims can report the incident in a confidential and secure manner. This means that the identity of the victim is kept confidential until the incident is investigated and action taken.

The other aspect is that strict punishment must be meted out in case wrongdoing is proved. Instead of mildly reprimanding the perpetrator and allowing the person to get away with the misdemeanor, there needs to be concrete action so that such incidents are not allowed to recur again. The point here is that justice must be seen to be done as well as seen to be effective. In many organizations, there are no punitive actions taken against the perpetrators, which embolden them and others to repeat such acts. Hence, the only way out would be for the company to initiate as strict an action possible that would deter others and serve as an example.

Finally, change comes from within and there is no point in having rules and regulations as well as punishments if the underlying mindset is one of mediaevalist thinking. Hence, the best way to foster inclusive working environment would be to effect a change in the mindset that creates inclusivity rather than narrow mindedness. Therefore, it would be in the interests of business leaders if they inculcated some of the values like tolerance, respect, and diversity among the staff. Only when there is an attitudinal change can there is an inclusive working environment.

In conclusion, fostering an inclusive working environment takes time, patience, and courage which the business leaders’ and the other management figures need to have in abundance.


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