How to Talk to Colleagues About Exclusion You Notice

8 min

There’s a common belief that confronting exclusionary behavior at work isn’t effective.

Many people worry that not only will they be seen as a troublemaker, but also people will start to tune them out.

Nobody wants to be the “boy (or girl) who cried sexism."


But confronting exclusionary behavior works.

Anyone can confront noninclusive behavior at work. You just have to draw attention to it.

To draw attention to exclusion at work:

1. Name the behavior (without assuming meaning)


Lots of exclusion is unconscious.

So instead of saying, “That’s sexist!” Simply name the behavior and how people might see it.

And assume that the people doing the excluding aren’t doing it on purpose.

Time for a quiz.


You and several of your male colleagues have a monthly poker night. You’ve realized that women in the office aren’t invited and might feel excluded because of this.


What might you say to your colleagues to name this exclusion?

Quiz 1 of 1

What might you say to your colleagues to name this exclusion?

a
Guys, I’m afraid that our poker game is sexist.
b
Guys, we really need to invite women to our poker game. It’s sexist to not invite them.
c
Guys, we haven’t invited any women to our monthly poker game. People might see that as us excluding women.
d
Guys, we’re excluding women from our poker game. If that doesn’t change, I have to quit.

Answer C: Guys, we haven’t invited any women to our monthly poker game. People might see that as us excluding women.


This names the behavior without assuming what people meant by it.

2. Ask a third party if they noticed the same thing


Ask someone else if they noticed the same exclusion you did. Again, don’t assume the meaning behind it.

Say you notice that your manager always asks a female colleague to take notes during a meeting.

You might take aside a colleague and say:


“Did you notice that Gertrude always asks a woman to take notes during meetings?"


If your colleague agrees, you can plan to talk to your manager about it privately or name the behavior in a later meeting.

3. Ask what people meant


This is the most direct way to bring attention to an exclusion. If someone says something exclusionary, asking them what they meant can force them to consider the unconscious bias that leads to the behavior.

For example, say a coworker makes a joke about women menstruating.


You can simply say, “Why do you think that’s funny?”

Here’s a takeaway with these tactics. Print it out and keep it nearby.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP:


The next time you see exclusion at work, try using one of the tactics in this lesson. Start with asking someone else. It’s easier to do something if you feel like you have backup.

Lesson complete

Like what you see? Try us for free!

Check out our library of 2000+ Microlearning® lessons and try creating your own lesson.

Sign me up