The world’s increasingly complex work and global relationships require more and more human cooperation. There is still a role for the solitary expert or craftsman, but most products and services are the result of workplace collaboration.
With sophisticated 21st century communications, work groups may be close quarters or even continents apart. Decades of employee surveys suggest that the quantity and quality of work outputs can be significantly enhanced if all members feel they have a stake in group success. Encouraging and maintaining that team purposefulness requires the proactive focus of supervisors and team members.
The most basic element in making a group inclusive is establishing the credibility of its leadership. While an organization’s official policy may proclaim its concern for the well-being of each worker, the first line management must demonstrate the concern daily. Consistent communications must go beyond issuing instructions and critiquing work to soliciting input and feedback on potential problems, suggested alternatives, and even personal situations which require attention.
The manager’s responses to upward communication will be most influential in convincing team members that their work product, daily contributions have consistent value. It will highlight the value and skills of each individual themselves. A key stumbling block to group cohesion and team spirit is the perception that some are valued more than others.
This does not mean that individual performance will not stand out at times and deserve special recognition. It does mean that every member has a clear understanding of performance standards and a fair opportunity to excel and be recognized. Equally important, it means that there should be rewards for the group as a whole for its demonstrated success.
Managers do not have a crystal ball, and their efforts need support from team members in identifying problems and keeping lines of communication open. Courtesy and mutual respect for all co-workers must be maintained at all times. An employee with a workplace issue or a personal situation should be encouraged to discuss with the team lead or manager. Failing that, it may be appropriate to alert the management team to be sensitive to a potential problem.
Inclusiveness may also be promoted by team building techniques. Numerous team building exercises and workplace courses have been developed in recent decades. Many external training consultants and internal Learning and Development departments are able to provide this type of group development.
Today’s workplace will benefit from establishing and maintaining a truly inclusive workplace.
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