Feeling welcome, appreciated and comfortable at work is essential to your performance and growth, but how do you find the right company for you?
Although a respectful workplace culture starts at the top, everyone in the office is responsible in some way to maintain this feeling of mutual respect.
If your boss treats his or her employees with respect and compassion, and sets the tone for the office environment, employees will treat each other this way too. The result is an environment in which everyone feels valued. As you research, apply and interview for jobs, be sure to actively look for these signs of an employer that prioritizes and values diversity and inclusion.
Emphasis on inclusivity, not just diversity
A diverse team of leaders does not necessarily bring about inclusivity in the workplace. During your interview, it’s important to ask directly about the company’s approach to inclusivity. Ask what the company’s inclusivity goals are and how they are tracked. Are there meetings and trainings to discuss and educate employees about the diverse cultures and religious beliefs encountered in the office? Is there a regular meeting where employees can freely discuss issues with company leaders? Are there resources or programs in place for underrepresented groups in the office? Some websites post reviews of companies from current and past employees regarding their experience of gender equality, workplace culture, compensation, management style, etc. If you have any contacts in your network who work at your dream company, ask them about their opinion on the inclusivity of the workplace.
Open door policy
An open door policy doesn’t have to be literally an open door (although it can be), but it is an effective way for the manager or boss to prove that he or she is serious about listening to and acting upon employees’ concerns and needs.
Enforcement of anti-discrimination policies
In many countries, including the U.S., businesses must comply with anti-discrimination laws. These include equal opportunity for all employees, regardless of age, gender, race and religion, among other things. There are also local and state anti-discrimination laws that businesses must follow. But just because the HR office displays that big handbook on anti-discrimination policies doesn’t necessarily mean that these policies are enforced every time an employee files a complaint. It’s not easy to know before you join if a company consistently enforces these policies and procedures — but if it’s a large corporation, major signs of a toxic work culture may have already been reported in the news. Look up the employer online and check websites like Glassdoor or CareerBliss for employee reviews. Ask around in case someone in your network (including your LinkedIn network) has worked for this employer and can give you some insider info.
Support for working parents
If you have children, a lack of flexibility and understanding from your employer might be a deal-breaker. What are the policies for maternity and paternity leave? Are there nursing rooms for breastfeeding mothers? What if you have to rush to your child’s school in the middle of the day or need to work from home because your child is sick? Will this be a problem for your employer? If you have a child or are expecting, it’s important to find out how the company supports (or doesn’t) its employees with children. If you are a parent or a parent-to-be, be sure to ask about these policies during the interview. Be polite but firm about your needs — it’s best to know ahead of time instead of finding out after you’ve accepted a job from an employer that doesn’t support working parents.
Mental health support
Everyone needs to take some time out once in a while, but this shouldn’t require using a paid vacation day. A mental health day policy is a sign of compassion for employees. Does the company offer stipends or insurance coverage for therapy? What about an employee assistance program?
Does your boss or manager encourage workplace discussion of salaries? This is one big way to move toward closing the gender and racial pay gap. In an inclusive workplace, you shouldn’t have to fear losing your job or not getting a promotion because you and your colleagues compare salaries openly.
Values and philanthropy
What does the company stand for? How does the company give back to society and contribute to solving the world’s problems? Is the company a responsible citizen of the communities it is located in and works within? Does the company have volunteer programs so employees can become engaged in the community? When company leaders are genuinely concerned about their impact on the community and get employees involved in the cause, this creates a stronger, more positive team.
Floating holiday policy
To accommodate the various religious beliefs of employees, a growing number of companies offer paid floating holidays, which allow an employee to take a few days off to observe a religious or culturally important holiday that is not nationally recognized. In fact, the US Equal Opportunity Commission requires employers with 15 or more employees to grant requests for time off to observe a religious holiday that is not on the company’s schedule.
Decide what’s important to you
Whether you’re about to join a large corporation, nonprofit institution or a fledgling startup, you need to feel safe and comfortable in the workplace. If you don’t find a potential employer up to these standards, try and have a chat with the hiring manager before you make you decide on the job offer. Your employer may be open to suggestions on how to improve the inclusivity of the company. But if you find that your input is not appreciated, it’s best to move on and keep searching.