You can’t shake hands with a closed fist ∫∫  Indira Gandhi

This quote by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi has inspired my consultation advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in work settings. The best verbal intentions to bring everyone to an environment of respect and affirmation will not occur if there is reluctance to participate in building communities for inclusion and belonging. To me, Indira Gandhi’s quote suggests an open mind and heart.

The workplace as a social, interpersonal setting

Indeed, the workplace is where individuals from all walks of life convene with our worldviews on life, intersecting identities, skills and experiences, priorities, and desires for socialization. It is often said that it is in school and work settings where there is the greatest likelihood for meeting people we might have never known growing up or living in our current neighborhoods. Thus, relationship-building can occur through daily encounters of cross cultural teamwork and other types of collaborations. With intentionality, everyday encounters can make someone feel a sense of inclusion and belonging. This can come through a quick hello, a nod of affirmation when someone is speaking, or in the world of online meetings, a virtual clap or thumbs up. These gestures take little effort but can have important impact.

What about harmony?                                       

Harmony is often associated with music, the coming together of different sounds and tones into unifying chords and melodies. Harmony provides a form of balance, evenness, and possibly unity. Because I enjoy classical music in particular, I think about the harmony from the varying instruments that come together to create inspirational and enjoyable sounds for me. Thinking about the workplace, I see harmony as creating an atmosphere where there are positive connections among people. It is about having an environment that feels “easy-going”, friendly, and with positive energy. As a consultant in the DEIB space, I want to create and model an atmosphere of understanding, inclusion, and belonging.

Tips for ending the year on a “high note”

  • Year-end office celebrations are an opportunity for extending well-wishes.
  • You can wish a colleague at work a ‘happy holiday/happy New Year’, but if that person does not feel included or that they belong, the greeting may not have the intended impact. Do not take it personally.
  • Recognize that there are different holiday celebrations with cultural and religious associations. Hanukah, Kwanza, and Christmas, all provide cultural and historic knowledge about traditions, values, and of course, food.
  • If someone on your team has had a rough year personally, take the extra time to connect; a small gesture of caring can go a long way.
  • Consider your opportunities to contribute to harmony in your office and with your co-workers. Ending the year on a “high” note will be an excellent carryover to 2023.