Inclusion is a choice: Micro-exclusions you are probably guilty of and how you can stop them

Dr Amanda McNamee
December 6, 2022
min read
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I worked in a previous role for a long time. I believed it was critical to my career that I remain. I loved the job and I had a couple of close friends there. But I was repeatedly excluded by the main group in my department. Their reason was simple, I was close to someone the group didn’t like. I was openly told that as long as I maintained that friendship I wouldn’t get lunch or after work drinks invites. My crime was association. My punishment surfaced feelings of loneliness, anger, guilt and disappointment.  I didn’t stay in that role, in fact women who feel excluded are 3 times more likely to quit than those who feel included. 

My exclusion was overt, direct and intentional. Not all exclusion is. According to performance psychologist Dr Fran Longstaff, the majority of exclusions we experience are micro-exclusions i.e. small behaviours that go under the radar but when experienced consistently are causal in our feelings of individual exclusion.  And because these micro-exclusions so often go under the radar people often come to believe that things will never change and as a result leave their roles. 

Exploring Dr Fran’s idea, we invited UK employees to tell us about their experience of exclusion, big and small.  Overall, 69% of respondents would like to feel more included at work and the most common exclusionary experience reported is having someone speak over you in a meeting with 65% of employees who have felt excluded experiencing this. Having someone speak over us in a meeting isn’t what we may have considered classic discrimination yet training programmes for inclusivity at work often default to typical overt EDI themes (e.g. consideration of others' cultures and differences). In our data far fewer people had experienced classic discrimination (e.g. 18% being the butt of someone's joke because of difference). It’s apparent that we need to consider everyday micro-exclusions such as poor meeting etiquette when providing inclusion training as this appears just as detrimental.

Other micro-exclusions commonly faced were: Being confused by the use of acronyms (48%), not receiving recognition for work but feeling colleagues were receiving it for theirs (42%) and not being invited to meetings you can contribute to (38%). 

Considering the frequency of these micro-exclusions, it’s little wonder that more than two-thirds of people don’t always feel confident at work and less than one-quarter always feel safe opening up about personal challenges at work. 

At Fika, we propose some micro-behaviour changes you and your teams should make that will help your colleagues feel more included:

1. Practise Mindful Listening

With competition for our attention at an all time high, having someone really listen provides a sense of value, respect and inclusion. It’s difficult to listen and even more difficult not to interrupt especially when we think we know what’s coming. A simple but effective technique to improve your listening is to practise mindful listening. This will help avoid the micro-exclusion of speaking over someone in a meeting or tuning out when they are speaking.   

2. Say it Simply

Research has shown that the simpler you speak the more intelligent you are perceived. This is surely a good reason to avoid jargon and acronyms. Another reason is to ensure that those around us feel included in the conversations you’re having. Jason Sinclair, a leading voice in EDI suggests one way to practice this is to think of a recent meeting you’ve attended and think about how you could have simplified your contributions in that meeting. 

3. Give recognition

Setting aside performance reviews and more formal means of feedback, voicing appreciation and gratitude for a job well done doesn’t have to be time consuming. Dedicating a small amount of time in a call to say “nice work on this week's blog, thanks for your effort” goes a long way to ensuring everyone feels included and appreciated.  And best of all the benefits of gratitude are not exclusive to the recipient but to the giver and anyone else listening too. 

4. Communicate creatively

How do you communicate with your team? Do you use the same method of communication with each team member? Have you ever asked them if this is their preferred way to communicate? Working in a diverse team I know that different colleagues prefer different means of communication. For some it’s preference and for others it’s necessity. Taking time to learn about each other's communication preferences and trying to use them where possible  creates a sense of inclusion among colleagues.  

Inclusion is a simple but powerful idea. Knowing we are part of something helps us stay committed, motivated and feel safe to express ourselves. Fika courses have techniques to train these micro-behavioural changes, so you can share them with everyone in your organisation. If you want to provide a more inclusive workplace for your colleagues then drop us a line on to see how our behaviour training can help your people feel included and valued.

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Dr Amanda McNamee

Dr Amanda McNamee is a Senior Mental Fitness Scientist at Fika. Amanda is a chartered Behavioural Psychologist and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Amanda is passionate about developing Fika's scientific evidence base and rigorous evaluation process in both workplace and education settings. Before Fika, Amanda spent time at Ofsted as an Evaluation Lead and more than a decade in academia. Her primary research focused on positive and social psychology and their underpinnings in behavioural change.

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