What we still get wrong about Inclusion

What we still get wrong about Inclusion and how we can become more inclusive?

Our brain’s goal is to keep us safe. The organizational principle of the brain is to moves away from threat and towards reward. Recognizing threat is a bigger priority to secure our safety.

When it comes to inclusion and exclusion our brain is very sensitive. Our brains are geared for social cues. Exclusion leads to distress, threat, anxiety, and emotional pain. The six effects of exclusion are:

  1. Reduced intelligent thought and reasoning.

In a moment of threat, the part of the brain responsible for intelligent thought and reasoning, the prefrontal cortex, starts to go “offline”. It doesn’t have the cognitive resources that it needs because it has been taken up by another part of our brain called the amygdala which is getting “flooded” by cortisol, a stress hormone.

  1. Increased self-defeating behavior.

Exclusion can lead to irrational and risky behavior.

  1. Reduced prosocial behavior.

People who feel excluded procrastinate more and are less likely to voluntarily help others.

  1. Impaired self-regulation.

They become insulant with reduced pro social behavior and their self-control and attention decreases.

  1. Reduces meaning and purpose.

Our motivation and self-awareness decreases. We may feel lethargic.

  1. Decreased well-being.

Increase of social anxiety and depression.

Becoming more Inclusive.

If you aren’t actively including, you’re probably accidentally excluding. It’s easy to accidentally do or say something that others experience as rejecting or excluding, because brains are wired to detect potential threats.

When we feel we are part of a team we feel psychological safety.

The illusion of transparency.

We overestimate the degree to which our internal states are being revealed. That we all have the exact knowledge base and pictures in our head. So, we make assumptions but using acronyms or examples or jokes for example that not everyone understands. When new people join a team, it is very evident because there is already a history in the team.

Unconscious bias gets in the way of our optimal decision making and potential inclusion. Inclusion is about the social behaviors that enable teams to function. If diverse members do not feel included there is no point to diversity just because science says it promotes productivity.

Read more about Diverse Teams

Without inclusion we can’t capture the benefits of diversity. The key is capturing our similarities and being deliberately inclusive. Mitigating bias is not enough to create inclusion. Bias is what is happening in OUR brain, but inclusion is about what’s happening in OTHER people’s brains. To create a DEI culture an organization must check its:

  1. Priorities

Encourage every voice. Explore new ideas and adopt a growth mindset. Eliminate barriers.

Employees who observe habits are five times more likely to understand the importance.

  1. Habits

Being sensitive to our environment and building inclusive social habits is necessary. The right habits, at the right time, in the right amount with clear tactical actions.

  1. Systems

Fear of evaluation and unfair treatment activate the same region of the brain as physical pain and reduces working memory, attention, and the capacity for creative insight. Employees gradually understand that inclusion is a core value and part of manager objectives.

Four things that we can do to be more inclusive.

  1. Recognize that inclusion matters to everyone, not just diverse employees.
  2. If you aren’t actively including, you are probably accidentally excluding.
  3. Solving for bias alone doesn’t solve inclusion.
  4. Everyone needs to build just a few key habits.


For more information about how to create a successful DEI culture in your organization please contact us or book a free meeting.