POV (Perspective)
Work & Next Level Leadership
  • Friday, Nov. 11, 2022
Grace Francis

Work takes up a lot of our lives. The number of hours we clock in, but also all the moments—good and bad—that we carry with us after the laptop closes. So many of those moments have little or nothing to do with our job titles, our companies, or our industries—they are about how we are treated by our coworkers and clients.
As a business leader, I’m thinking about employee experience as much as EBITDA. Recently, I spoke to the business coach Ruth Farenga, as part of her new book, Next Level Leadership: Nine lessons from Conscious Leaders about how inclusion can radically change the workplace for the better.
Inclusion is the answer to quiet quitting
A lot of businesses are head scratching on quiet quitting—workers who aren’t in a position to quit their jobs are adopting an approach of doing only what is required of them and no more. Some have responded this is the definition of work—a fair exchange of labour, but this misses the point.
Quiet quitting isn’t about letting go of inbox zero or how many items get ticked off the to do list, instead it is about soul. How it feels to be present and part of something, or to be on the outside yet forced to keep on turning up. Inclusion—whether that is about an employee’s identity or lived experience, is the answer here, not to drive productivity, but to create a space where people are connected and able to flourish.
Hybrid working helps, but it also covers up problems
If you are marginalized or minoritized at your place of work, it is likely you have found hybrid working makes office life more tolerable. Working through screens at home not only allows us the autonomy to meet our own needs, it can also help foster environments of psychological safety. This doesn’t mean that the microaggressions and issues in the physical office have gone away, or that hybrid working is perfect—we need to continue to work hard to foster environments that are truly inclusive.
Gen Z are calling out the work that needs to be done in corporate offices
We’re seeing the openness of Gen Z and Millennials shape work culture in a way that drives inclusivity and dismantles power structures. Most recently, interns and entry-level employees on Wall Street are taking to TikTok to discuss previously confidential work cultures and calling out behaviours that don’t mirror their expectations for inclusion. If you’re a c-suite leader and you want to understand inclusion at your workplace, have a conversation with your Gen-Z staff.
The lines between home and work life are more blurred than ever before and leadership needs to be ready to respond
Over my career I’ve spoken to staff about health scares, bereavement, fertility and divorce—sometimes people just want to offer some context about where they are at in life but more often than not, they are seeking compassion, empathy and support at work. Conscious leaders don’t replace therapists, but we are moving into a time where we need to think about the whole person, not just the worker.
Leaders need to look after themselves too—especially when it comes to inclusivity
I’ve heard from C-suite leaders who feel isolated—they can’t share the experiences with their own staff, and their peers are their competitors. This is even more significant if the leader is marginalized or minoritized—they might even be the first person in their industry to hold the role. Coaches are a good solution to this, as Ruth sets out in her book, but we’re also seeing more leaders show their own vulnerability and humanity at work, and staff supporting that leap of faith.

Grace Francis is global chief creative and design officer at creative agency Wong/Doody.

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