Stop Making People Fit in

leadership support work Jun 16, 2021

A culture in which we need to 'fit in' is so common we don't even know we're doing it.

Fitting in is where you look at what is happening around you and would yourself to fit into what you see (chameleon anyone?).

For anyone who isn’t part of the majority at work there are so many unwritten rules about how to fit in it can feel like a minefield.

We know not to show emotions as women. Don't be too loud, wear the right clothes, keep your opinions to yourself and my favorite “calm down”.

For other minorities it can be ‘fixing’ your natural hair, look people in the eye or ‘why do you wear that’?

Essentially, we are being told to be one person at home and a different person at work.

In contrast, in a culture that allows us to truly belong we:

  • are encouraged to share differences in opinions and life experiences
  • care for our employees as whole people rather than 'human resources'
  • understand the systems we have in place and the impact of them on all employees, then start to dismantle those that work for some and work against others

Belonging is being free to turn up as you no matter who you are or where you are.

No matter what role you're in right now, you can start to shift the culture.

A lot of exclusion is accidental, so take a step back and see what you might be missing. 

At my work there is a wall of all the past top leaders (with various titles throughout the decades) drawn in pencil. All bar one is a white male, one seems to be a black man (based on the extra shading on his face). It’s a fascinating reflection of a history that tells me I don’t belong at that level.  

So what can you do?

Well, you can’t start taking down walls of pencil drawn photos. 

You can listen for the micro aggressions and call them out when you can.

You can start discussions with people about the difference between fitting in and belonging and ask if they have examples of where your team or organization might be falling short. 

If there's something you can do, then do it, but worse case scenario, simply by listening you will help people feel they belong just that little bit more.

It’s going to take each and every one of us to turn this around in large organizations, so get started today x

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