Why inclusive communication matters and how to use it in your everyday work?

Author: Magda Hutny


8 min read

Why inclusive communication matters and how to use it in your everyday work?

One for all, all for one

To answer the title question, let’s see first what inclusive communication really is. Google Search results contain various explanations of the term. But for me personally, it’s about empowerment and feeling safe. It means creating an environment where everyone can express their uniqueness, and feel included and respected.

Data proves that this approach is not only appreciated by employees but also pays off. In the 2017 Deloitte report on global human capital trends, 78% of respondents stated that diversity and inclusion create a competitive advantage, and for 39%, it is a significant one. Its importance increases among employees, managers (including CEOs), shareholders, customers, and suppliers.

This year’s research by Cowen Partners Executive Search shows that, and I quote:

  • Diverse companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovators in their market.
  • Companies having diverse management teams have about a 19% chance of higher revenues.
  • 89% of CEOs say that having a diverse workforce improved their deadlines.
  • 68% of job seekers say that diversity is considered an important factor in a company.

Inclusive communication – why does it work?

We do not want to work in a toxic atmosphere

The first reason seems rather obvious, and I find it astonishing that it was so commonly neglected.

We all want to feel good. There were – and there still are – people who think that a manager must be tough, employees need a lot of discipline, and they must leave their personalities and uniqueness at the door.

But a lot of us spend a huge part of our lives at work, and during this time, we’re still the same people as in our free time. It’s definitely less stressful when you don’t have to suppress yourself for eight hours a day.

Embracing different perspectives adds value to the team and work outcome

In the past, strict discipline, uniformization, and giving employees no ownership or no chance to speak up were often seen as the correct way of managing teams. But we now know it’s just not true, and we have the data to prove it.

An appreciated employee who knows that their voice is being heard feels more connected to their workplace. Inclusive practices and diversity help teams grow and achieve great results. And I mean big numbers here: up to 30% higher revenue per employee and greater profitability.

What’s more, a single perspective is never enough. People have different skills, characteristics, experiences, thoughts, and so on. Each of them can be taken into account to contribute to a new solution, product, or process.

That’s how it works in Admind (you can learn more about our values and culture from Admind’s Culture Book). From the whistleblowing policy, through pulse surveys, to creating internal team processes, all employees are encouraged to share their opinions, doubts and ideas freely (and anonymously when needed). It’s worth noting that inclusive communication in Admind is not a vague guideline but a solid process. As you can see, the general approach is followed by specific solutions and tools.

Find out more about our approach to social impact.

[Put your reasons here]

Besides that, one can have their own personal reasons to support inclusive communication in the workplace.

For example, for me, it’s a natural consequence of my “democratic” approach to communication, curiosity about other perspectives, and experiences that help me notice and better understand the underprivileged and underrepresented.

Recently we have conducted an insightful webinar on designing for deaf people. Learn how such design can have a positive impact on the UX of a website.

Inclusive communication - Illustration

Inclusive communication – how to do it?

I hope you can see now that inclusive communication is beneficial from both business and personal perspectives. But how to use it in our everyday work? For now, I’m happy to share a handful of concrete tips that will make a good start.

Be aware of unconscious bias

For me, it’s one of the most important guidelines to follow. We all have unconscious biases that distort perception.

Example:

We can perceive people who use regional dialect as less intelligent – and thus overlook their real qualities.

Of course, we should not agonize over having an unconscious bias. This is a result of our education, tradition, politics, influences from family and friends, and so on. But when we are aware of it, we can overcome it.

Use gender-neutral language

Your audience, users, clients, and whoever you’re talking to or talking about, are not only men, obviously.

To include multiple different gender identities, you can use “one” or “they” instead of “he” when you refer to a hypothetical person and not to a real one. There are also gender-neutral position names, like spokesperson or head. And you can also take into account that not only men will be recipients of your emails or greetings.

Examples:

A user is going to be confused. He will not know what to do → A user is going to be confused. They will not know what to do

Spokesman → spokesperson

Chairman → chair, chairperson, coordinator, head

Dear Sir → Dear Sir or Madam, Dear Editor, Dear Members of the Search Committee, To Whom it May Concern

Guys → Folks, people, teammates

Ladies and gentlemen → Friends and folks, peers, distinguished guests, folks, all assembled

Your wife, husband → Partner, significant other, close one

Use mental health language properly

As the World Health Organization reported in August 2020, almost one billion people are living with mental disorders. Yet, mental disorders are one of the most neglected areas of public health, and stigma, discrimination, and human rights abuse are common in such cases. This affects not only people with mental disorders but also their close ones.

That’s why it’s so important to realize that bipolar, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression are not figures of speech but real diagnoses that people struggle with. I think this comes with some compassion for fellow human beings who suffer.

One of my “favorite” examples is a Polish celebrity saying that she’s depressed after eating too much pizza or other gluten-based products. Well, if this is the way they actually think about depression then nope, they were never depressed and they have no idea what depression is. Period.

Also, it’s worth thinking twice before using words like “schizo”, “paranoid” or “psycho”. These words are often used with the clear intention to insult someone. I know it’s sometimes hard to say something nice instead. Inclusivity is also about not offending people, so I won’t be offering any alternatives here. If you’re interested in digging more into it, check out Nonviolent Communication (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonviolent_Communication) by Marshall Rosenberg.

Examples:

I’m always depressed when I eat too much pizza → I always feel sad/worse when I eat too much pizza

Schizo, paranoid, psycho → [Nonviolent Communication]

Learn more about our approach to inclusive design and designing accessibility by clicking on one of the links.

Inclusive communication - illustration

Use universal phrases

This hint is especially important if you work in an international environment.

Most idioms do not translate from country to country. Also, some cultural aspects, conditions, and phenomena are obvious in some countries, but people from other countries are completely unfamiliar with them.

Of course, some idioms are commonly used, like “piece of cake” (about something easy). The meaning of others can be easily guessed – “wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole” carries quite a clear message, at least to me. But phrases “to go pear-shaped” or “cock and bull story” may not be that easy to understand without research.

On the other hand, we all use idioms unwittingly, so please be understanding toward others. For example, Japanese and Korean people often close their emails with “This is the end of the email”. People from other countries are not used to it. But as a recipient of such a message, I can be sure that no part of the email is missing.

Examples:

To go pear-shaped → to go wrong

Cock and bull story → implausible story, excuse

This is the end of the email [Japanese and Korean] → This is the end of the email

At Admind, we are in the process of obtaining the B Corp certificate. Find out more about it by clicking on the link.

Use the Microsoft checking tool

As a part of the proofing module, Microsoft introduced the inclusive language check tool. It checks your piece of text for biases – gender, age, race, and more. It’s included in a Microsoft 365 subscription, but you need to turn it on. Here’s how to do it:

1. Click “File” at the top left of the Word screen.

Microsoft checking tool instruction

2. Click “Options” at the bottom of the “File” menu.

Microsoft checking tool instruction

3. Select “Proofing” on the left, enable “Mark grammar errors as you type”, and open the “Grammar & Refinements” settings.

Microsoft checking tool instruction

4. Scroll down to the “Inclusiveness” section and enable the options

Microsoft checking tool instruction

Summary

This subject has much more to offer, of course, but I wanted the article to be a starter pack, ready to use and handy. As you can see, it doesn’t take much to start being inclusive in the workplace.

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