Create More Workplace Inclusion With This Improv Technique

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Workplace inclusion helps employees of all ethnicities, backgrounds, religions, and sexual orientations thrive and feel safe at work. Often companies enact diversity and inclusion initiatives but fail to recognize that workplace diversity does not equate to inclusion. The challenge then becomes to create a workplace where everyone feels included. You’ve got to get the inclusion part right, and as a result, workplace inclusion efforts are equally important.

An inclusive culture draws people in and retains them longer. A Deloitte study found that 72 percent of workers would leave one company for a more inclusive one. Therefore, inclusion is a competitive advantage when recruiting talent.

Because energy and time are limited, we’ve built a habit of saying “no” a lot in order to get things done. We have to be picky about how we utilize our time. However, starting your response with “no” often makes people feel excluded, unheard, and that you don’t want their ideas.


“Yes, and…” Improv Tip Promotes Workplace Openness and Inclusion

One of the basic techniques taught in improv is known as “yes, and…” Using this technique, five-six actors get on stage and create a show without a script, props, or costumes. The only way it is successful is if the actors are thinking and listening.

The actor knows they will hear “yes,” which means their idea is supported and accepted. They also know they will here “and,” which adds or expands on their idea. As a result, the actor feels supported and accepted by the rest of the actors on stage.

Applying this improv concept to the workplace creates radical changes in business and positive engagement from employees. Applying “yes, and…” to your language, people feel heard, valued, and accountable, even more, using “and,” shows your engagement. Above all, it makes you a willing participant in the success or failure of the conversation and outcome.

We have a propensity to hear something and immediately decide what is wrong or how to refute it. As a result, we lead with “no,” or “yes, but..” all too often. Nothing kills energy or excitement more than feeling denied or patronized. Hearing “no” leaves us feeling unheard and that our ideas were unwelcome. Whereas hearing “but” causes us to feel everything before “but” was disingenuous.

“Yes, and…” helps leaders create an inclusive workplace. Using this language helps manage conflict, decision making, and, indeed, for sharing perspectives. Employees feel connected, collaborative, and more effective. As a result, they feel included. As you continue your diversity and inclusion initiatives, make sure to focus on inclusion. This improv technique will help you get started.


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Jason Cortel is currently the Director of Global Workforce Management for a leading technology company. He has been in customer service, marketing, and sales services for over 20 years. In addition, he has extensive experience in offshore and nearshore outsourcing. Jason is an avid Star Trek fan and is on a mission to change the universe by helping people develop professionally. He is driven to help managers and leaders lead their teams better. Jason is also a veteran in creating talent and office cultures.

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