How To Manage Your Non-Inclusive Manager?

by Srikant Chellappa May 20,2024

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

We have all experienced it at one point or another in our professional lives – working under a non-inclusive manager. The feeling of being left out, undervalued, and unsupported can be demotivating and frustrating, especially when we are trying to excel in our careers. Unfortunately, this is an issue that many individuals face daily, and the impact of a non-inclusive manager goes beyond just creating a toxic work environment. 

According to research, employees who feel included are more engaged and productive in their jobs compared to those who don’t. So how do you manage a non-inclusive manager? In this blog post, we will share practical strategies on how you can navigate this challenging situation and maintain your sense of self-worth while working with such bosses.

Identify the Problem

Non-inclusive acts and practices in the workplace include those that are based on or discriminate against individuals based on some aspects of who they are, such as race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or others. Such attitudes are often outwardly expressed in different ways and can be a great source of dissatisfaction among employees. 

Some forms of non-inclusive practice include:

1. Microaggressions

These are indicators of unconscious behaviors that have no specific intention of hurting a person’s identity. For instance, continual mispronunciation of the same native’s name despite being corrected indicates that you are disrespectful and indifferent towards the individual’s cultural background.  

Another popular micro-aggression is “I don’t see color,” which denies the experiences and individualities of people of color.

2. Biased Decision-Making

This happens when managers are influenced by their prejudices and preferences when making decisions. For example, when high-visibility projects or promotions are not allocated fairly, men of a certain race or preferred group are always selected, while equally qualified people are never noticed. 

This bias can also manifest itself in the recruiting process, where HR professionals examine candidates based on some prejudiced criteria rather than talent and skills.

3. Ignoring Contributions

Employee dismissiveness is another toxic behavior, and it entails ignoring or failing to recognize the efforts and accomplishments of some employees. For example, a manager might often assign another team member’s ideas and achievements to someone else on the team, or they might neglect to acknowledge contributions by failing to credit this type of behavior in meetings or reports. 

This demotivates the affected employees, hinders their professional growth, and brings down their enthusiasm for work.

Also Read: 9 Ways To Tackle Unconscious Bias At Work

How to Communicate with a Non-Inclusive Manager?

Here are some strategies you can use to communicate with the manager directly:

  • Pick the Right Moment

Begin by scheduling a private meeting at a time when your manager is most likely to be receptive. Avoid times of high stress or right after a project deadline, as this can influence the tone and receptiveness of the conversation. A calm, neutral time can facilitate a more open and productive dialogue.

  • Focus on The Impact

Clearly articulate how your manager’s behavior affects you and your work. Instead of a broad complaint, highlight specific instances and describe their impact on your performance and well-being. For example, explain how feeling overlooked in meetings leads to a sense of disengagement and possibly impacts your motivation and productivity.

  • Use “I” Statements

To keep the conversation non-confrontational, frame your observations and feelings with “I” statements. This approach personalizes your experience without directly blaming or accusing your manager, which can trigger defensiveness. For instance, say, “I feel frustrated when my contributions are not acknowledged,” instead of “You always ignore my contributions.”

  • Offer Solutions

After addressing the issues, propose practical solutions. Suggest inclusive practices like rotating meeting leadership to ensure everyone’s ideas are heard or implementing regular feedback sessions to discuss team dynamics openly. Offering solutions shows your commitment to improving the work environment, making it easier for your manager to respond positively.

When Direct Communication Isn’t Enough

When direct communication fails to resolve issues with a non-inclusive manager, it becomes essential to take additional steps to safeguard your interests and push for necessary changes.

  • Document Everything

Begin by meticulously recording all instances of non-inclusive behavior. Note the dates, times, specific details of what occurred, and the context in which these incidents took place. If possible, document any witnesses who were present. This log will serve as crucial evidence if you need to escalate the matter, providing a clear pattern of behavior that can be more effectively addressed by higher authorities.

  • Seek Support

It’s important not to isolate yourself. Discuss your experiences with trusted colleagues, mentors, or a union representative, if available. They can offer you perspective, advice, and possibly corroborate your experiences if they have observed similar behaviors. This support network is not only validating but can strengthen your position when addressing issues with HR or senior management.

  • Explore Internal Resources

Investigate what resources your company offers concerning diversity and inclusion. Many organizations have DEI training programs, employee assistance programs, or hotlines designed to handle such complaints. These resources often provide confidential advice and can guide you on how to proceed, ensuring that your concerns are addressed appropriately and sensitively.

Also Read: Handling Workplace Conflicts Like a Pro: New Manager Edition

Prioritizing Your Well-being

Prioritizing your well-being is crucial, especially when dealing with a non-inclusive work environment that can drain your energy and impact your mental health. Here are strategies to help protect your well-being while navigating difficult workplace dynamics:

  • Set Boundaries 

It’s important to establish clear boundaries with your manager and colleagues. Learn to say no to unreasonable demands or requests that go beyond your role or are consistently pushing you into uncomfortable territory. Setting these boundaries not only preserves your mental energy but also signals to others that your capabilities and time must be respected.

  • Maintain a Positive Work-Life Balance

Make a conscious effort to maintain a work-life balance that fosters both career fulfillment and personal happiness. Engage in activities outside of work that de-stress and rejuvenate you, such as hobbies, physical activities, or spending time with loved ones. These activities are essential as they help ground you in your identity and worth, away from the stress caused by work.

  • Consider Your Options

Reflect on whether the situation with your non-inclusive manager is something you can handle over the long term. Continuous exposure to a toxic work environment can have lasting effects on your mental and emotional health. 

If the situation does not improve, consider exploring other opportunities within the company where a more positive and inclusive culture prevails. If internal options are limited or non-existent, it may be time to look for opportunities elsewhere where your talents and contributions will be valued and respected.

Also Read: What Is Dotted-Line Reporting in Organizations?

Let’s Sum Up

Navigating the challenges of a non-inclusive manager can be daunting, but it is crucial to remember that you have the power to effect change. By employing strategic communication, fostering a supportive network, and leveraging available resources, you can create a more inclusive environment for yourself and your colleagues. Empower yourself with knowledge and resilience, and never hesitate to seek external support when needed. Inclusivity is a collective effort, and your proactive steps can inspire broader organizational change, paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable workplace for everyone.

Employee Engagement

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are there any legal considerations people should be aware of regarding non-inclusive behavior?

Non-inclusive behavior can sometimes cross into discrimination or harassment, which are legal matters. Familiarize yourself with your rights under your local and national laws. Consult legal advisors or your company’s legal department if you suspect that the behavior breaches legal guidelines.

  • How to contribute to creating a more inclusive culture in the workplace despite having a non-inclusive manager?

Promote inclusivity through your actions by ensuring everyone’s ideas are heard and respected, advocating for equitable treatment, and supporting diversity initiatives in your organization. Encourage open discussions about inclusivity and diversity, and participate in or organize training and workshops.

  • What resources can help cope with the stress of dealing with a non-inclusive manager?

Consider accessing employee assistance programs (EAPs), seeking support from professional networks, or engaging with counseling services. Reading materials on dealing with difficult workplace situations and speaking to mentors or peers who have faced similar challenges can also provide guidance and support.

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Srikant Chellappa
CEO & Co-Founder of Engagedly

Srikant Chellappa is the Co-Founder and CEO at Engagedly and is a passionate entrepreneur and people leader. He is an author, producer/director of 6 feature films, a music album with his band Manchester Underground, and is the host of The People Strategy Leaders Podcast. He is currently working on his next book, Ikigai at the Workplace, which is slated for release in the fall of 2024.

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