Inclusion, belonging, and wellbeing as the focus of Industrial-Organizational Psychology
This year, I was participating in Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology (SIOP) conference presenting as SIOP’s 2022 Ensuring Inclusive Environments and Cultures Champion.
No pressure, huh?
The field of I/O traditionally catered to those privileged – when I was in graduate school, circa 2000, this was made abundantly clear by a professor who told us that if we want to help people, we are in the wrong place and that our job is to help organizations to get as much as possible out of workers. On another occasion, a senior figure in the field hinted that we’d be naïve to think of diversity in the workplace as anything but performative lip service.
I am happy to report that things are changing.
The pandemic accelerated this change. It exposed outdated, parochial, toxic, capricious, and in many cases, deeply unjust organizational practices that created burnout and even killed employees, perpetuated privilege, and penalized difference. People with disabilities have been prevented from working by arbitrary “I need to see you working” requirements. Asian Americans have been prevented from advancement to leadership by stereotypes, and women of color were made to feel excluded even when they were conventionally successful.
Employees are not taking the lack of inclusion and the lack of compassion any longer – the Great Resignation is here.
Moreover, the new generation of I-O Psychologists is changing the field. The number of conference sessions dedicated to employee wellbeing, inclusion, belonging, and organizational health at this year’s SIOP were impressive, but what is more impressive is that these are no longer just “free-standing” topics. Instead, diversity and wellbeing topics are integrated into all other topics – selection and performance management, remote working, and leadership development.
For example, I participated in a panel discussion on remote and hybrid meetings. We did not just discuss making these meetings effective, we discussed making them fair and inclusive by ensuring multiple communication modes, providing information as well as opportunities for input not only during, but before and after meetings, and ensuring that the most gregarious communicators do not monopolize airtime. After all, introverted people, people from cultures that promote modesty, or people with communication differences have valuable ideas to contribute. It is the inclusion of people with different experiences and the diversity of contributions that enrich organizations. Not the old-school, “greed is good” approach.
Sure, the field still has a long way to go. But it is encouraging to see the change. And it is encouraging to know that Vanguard’s Organizational Psychology integrated an understanding of the importance of employee wellbeing and diversity into the program from the start, and long before many others did. For example, we introduced our Certificate in Intercultural and Inclusive Leadership before inclusion became “vogue.”
Championing inclusion in the workplace is hard work. It is great to know that many of those who do this are Vanguard University alumni.