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Validation and Building Inclusive Mindsets

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

Last month, we wrote an article on how we can validate our coworkers’ identities by simply making a few changes to normalize pronoun sharing. This habit of asking about pronouns instead of assuming what someone’s pronouns are takes practice but eventually you’ll notice it becomes second nature. So, how else can we show validation to our teammates? And why is validation even important?

There are two extremely interesting data points from a Salesforce Research study that surveyed over 1,500 business professionals on values-driven leadership and workplace equality:

1. Employees who feel they can be their authentic selves at work are nearly three times (2.8x) more likely to be proud to work there.

2. Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.

If you’re in a leadership position, this means you need to take the time to listen and understand your employees while also ensuring that you’re instilling this culture throughout your team. This can be as simple as making sure you have recurring lunch outings or other team building activities built into your work weeks. Here at Colorful Connections, we have bi-monthly “Rose Parties” to talk about non-work related achievements. During these informal, optional and virtual gatherings, we’ve learned so much about each other and in turn, that makes us feel more connected and we think, a better team!

You also must remember that people learn and work in different ways. If you have an employee who doesn’t tend to speak up in group meetings, be sure to check in with them one on one. They may need smaller settings or more time to process in order share their ideas but you’ll only learn that if you make the effort to learn it. Taking extra steps to make sure your employees’ voices are heard and showing them their opinions matter can go a long way.

Our Authentic Selves Can Bring Conflict

Ideally, the more people who show up authentically, and feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their opinions, the closer your team will become and the more effective your company will run.

That being said, when you have a truly diverse team with many different lived experiences, sometimes conflict can arise. A person may be genuinely sharing their opinion/experience but inadvertently at the expense of someone else.

Here’s an example: Your team is talking about privilege (a worthwhile conversation!) and white privilege enters the conversation.

Team member Phil, who is white, says, “I don’t have white privilege because I grew up in a single-parent home and we struggled to pay rent each month.” Phil is talking about economic privilege. We could respond by saying, “Phil, that’s not white privilege. That’s economic privilege. There’s a difference!” This response, however, lacks empathy and it could possibly make Phil even more defensive. Instead, validate his experience so that we can help grow his inclusive and intersectional mindset.

A better response might be: “I hear that you and your family struggled financially Phil, thank you for sharing that. It must have been very challenging. It definitely sounds like you didn’t have a lot of economic privilege. What we’re talking about is racial privilege and discrimination based on a person’s skin color. Do you see the difference?” Hopefully, Phil will see the difference or maybe you’ll need to give an example for him. Either way, we want people to feel comfortable sharing their experiences but not shut them down if they don’t completely understand something. Of course, if Phil refuses to believe the differences in types of privilege, well, it may be time to assess if Phil might be doing more damage to the team and company than good.

We can validate a person’s experience but we should all have a no tolerance policy on intolerance.

Written by Katie Avila Loughmiller


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