Can We All Just Get Along?

Can We All Just Get Along? This question was asked a lot in the 90's and became a common tag line and is a continuing meme theme in social media. It seems like a reasonable question, but the fact of the matter is, "we can't just get along, if we don't feel that we belong." It's true in all areas of our lives, including the workplace.

RR Donnelley's mission is to be a company where every employee feels like he or she belongs. How do we fulfill that mission? What does it mean to feel like we belong? Belonging is what inclusion feels like. Many are familiar with the term inclusion and know of its benefits, especially as it pertains to the workplace. Inclusion is a widely accepted as essential to business success and getting the most out of people. But inclusion, like what it feels like to belong, can mean different things to different people.

To understand what Inclusion really means and what does it feel like to belong, we asked employees at all levels of the company to tell us in their own words. On an everyday basis, in everyday situations what does inclusion feel like? How do you know if you belong? These are some of the responses we received:

But creating a culture where everyone belongs is not easy. The impact of not belonging or exclusion is well documented. Consider the demographic representation at the top of most U.S. organizations. The numbers are depressingly homogeneous.

One barrier to having everyone "belong" is the fact that we are naturally more comfortable being with people who are like ourselves-in appearance, background, style, race, ethnicity, language, etc. So while most generally accept the idea that diversity and inclusion are a good to have and a good for business, in practice it doesn't always translate into inclusive behaviors. It's not surprising that employees like the idea of a diverse workplace, but homogeneous groups are what we most often see and many are left out feeling like they don't belong. In fact, it's more than a feeling.

To mitigate the impact of not belonging, many employees have developed coping techniques sociologists refer to as "covering," whereby people downplay their difference from the mainstream. In a research study done by the organization, Catalyst on Feeling Different: Being the "Other" in U.S. Workplaces, researchers examined what it is like for employees not to belong in the workplace.

Beyond the personal, psychological experience of feeling different from the majority, there are measurable consequences for being the "other" in the United States. For example, women generally make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, but African-American and Latina women make even less-64 and 55 cents, respectively. To the extent that these women are being excluded, companies are losing out on their talent.

Organizations that wish to have cultures where everyone belongs must be intentional about inclusive behaviors. It must be a commitment shared across all employees-from the CEO to the individual contributor. If a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, then start here: Take time to recognize your own blind spots when it comes to inclusion. In your work environment, who do you listen to? Whose opinion to you value? Who's work do you appreciate? And then ask yourself- Am I resisting including people at work that I am not used to being around based on "my own stuff?" Get level with knowing yourself and it's the beginning of real change. I'm not just talking to you, this is something I continually work on myself.

So the answer to the question, "Can We All Just Get Along?" is "Yes!" We can get along if we work to value, appreciate, respect and include everyone to ensure we all belong!

Monica Guillory, Director, HR & Workplace Inclusion, RR Donnelley

Back to Articles