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Do you have Inclusion Delusion? Here are 7 Ways to Find Out and How to Fix it.

Just suppose you think inclusion is one of your values. So, you do the things you think you’re supposed to in order to make the public perceive you as inclusive. You think it’s the right thing to do so you put a picture of a person in a wheelchair on your website and send your 1 black employee to represent the company at a charity event.

“See, we ARE inclusive” you think the message conveys.

To the people you are trying to include, think about how this is perceived. Performative perhaps?

What is inclusion delusion?

Inclusion delusion is when you are overconfident in how inclusive you are, coupled with being drawn to people like yourself. It leads to unintentional exclusion. Essentially, you aren’t as inclusive as you think you are, and shy away from surrounding yourself with people who are different. This results in lackluster and superficial inclusion efforts.

The Forbes article linked below outlines the research that indicates that most leaders think they’re more inclusive and less biased than most, leading to an overconfidence bias.

Affinity bias, on the other hand, means we are drawn to people who are more like us. This bias reinforces our values and makes us feel good about ourselves. Being around those who are more like us also helps us feel safer and more at ease.

Therefore, overconfidence bias + affinity bias = inclusion delusion.

diverse hands together in the middle with the text overlay that reads "affinity bias + overconfidence = inclusion delusion"

Why is this important?

It’s important to look at how included folks feel because of who makes up our workforce. Almost half (47%) of millennials look for an inclusive organization when securing their next role. By 2025, the workforce will make up of three-quarters (75%) millennials. That means that ONE THIRD of all working people will be looking for a company that is inclusive by 2025.

(Source: Forbes)

How to assess if you have inclusion delusion & what to do about it:

1. Do you have dedicated DEI staff?

  • Yes: good job! Make sure they’re held accountable and implement those policies we talk about below.

  • No: hire someone who is a member of an equity deserving group.

2. Do your staff say they feel included?

  • Survey them and respond to their needs. We cannot assess staff’s thoughts, we can only assess their behaviours, so we need to get the feedback directly from them and stop assuming.

  • Ensure staff have a safe space to voice their opinion without repercussion. More on psychological safety here.

3. Have you self-assessed your own inclusion practices?

  • Ask yourself – does everyone I hire and interact with at work look and sound like me? Am I more comfortable with people who are like me? Taking the time to consciously assess your own biases, even subtle ones like thinking someone is good because you find them physically attractive (“halo effect”), is an important task in leadership.

  • Don’t ignore the advise that comes from others just because you think you know what’s best – remember we often struggle with detecting biases within ourselves, and others are able to better judge our biases than we can judge our own. Being more aware of your bias blind spots mean you’re more likely to use good judgement when making decisions and taking advice. Ignoring your susceptibility to bias can result in a lack of flexibility, open mindedness, and empathy, all of which are essential leadership qualities.

4. Does your company have DEI policies and practices, or just use performative tactics?

  • Create policies and implement them. Don’t wing it. If needed, seek support from a DEI Consultant that is a member of equity deserving groups you seek to include.

  • Think about how your attempts at inclusion are perceived by others. Is there a genuine interest in making others feel like they belong, or is it superficial and showboaty.

5. Do you tokenize people of colour?

  • Don’t ask staff from marginalized communities to speak on behalf of their entire community. Just like not all white people are the same, neither are all black people.

  • Do you find yourself reaching for the same person to be a face of the company because your options are limited? Don’t use the one diverse person to be on all committees and in all photos just to show that you’re inclusive.

6. Do you expect diverse people to mould into your culture, or do you mould your culture to

make everyone feel like they belong?

  • Run away from the old ways of the white man’s world - see my blog on intersectionality here. This white privilege mentality just isn’t going to work anymore.

  • Remember, change is good. Evolve your workplace culture to be more reflective of the people who live in your community. Having an inclusive and diverse workforce leads to higher productivity and innovation. One telling sign is the turnover of staff from equity deserving groups.

  • No more of this “I don’t see colour” nonsense. Respect everyone’s unique experiences as it relates to their race, culture, and religion. Not everyone has to be one big happy family, but you do have to respect each other. Expecting everyone to be buddies undermines the fact that everyone is different and covers up the discomfort that comes with acknowledging the differences between each other.

7. Do you give everyone an equal opportunity for advancing their careers within your company?

  • Yes: good job!

  • No: recognize that authentic leadership that represents the workforce of the company brings immense value. You need them more than they need you. You need leaders who demonstrate strong cultural competencies and can work with everyone.

Infographic outlining the 7 ways to know if you have inclusion delusion.

By being aware of your inclusion practices and identifying any gaps is key to attracting and retaining an engaged, productive, and innovative workforce. Besides, by 2025 we don't want one third of our workforce leaving due to a lack of inclusive practices.


Hi, I'm Samantha, an Inclusive Leadership Coach that is eager to support you with breaking free & living a limitless authentic life after being pushed aside in society. Think of it as solution focused Coaching with a social justice twist. Whatever you want to work on, leadership or otherwise, you'll transform your life and experience shifts you never thought possible.

As a person obsessed with leadership, I want to see an increase the number of equity seeking people - women, racialized, disabled and 2SLGBTQIA+ folks - in leadership roles. I want to create the most diverse and equitable workforce where everyone can bring their full selves to work.

Interested in assessing whether a company has inclusive practices? Download your FREE two-page Inclusive Workplace Checklist here.

Book a no obligation discovery call here.

Keep in touch here.

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