Does everyone need to be in the room?

The down side of inclusiveness in the workplace


Photo by Charlie Foster

Inclusiveness, particularly in small companies, can be a tricky road to navigate. Whether in meetings or on project teams, you want to encourage employees who are interested to participate, and when you have a small staff, it’s easy to include everyone. This prevents managers or employees from feeling they’ve been left out of the loop or that their contribution isn’t valued.

But there are some down sides which may outweigh your compulsion to get the opinion of everyone available:

  1. Inefficiency – Everybody knows it, yet somehow we keep doing it; decisions made through committee are a recipe for disaster. We’ve all been in those meetings that seem to drag on for days, the conversation going around and around with no consensus in sight. Instead, loosen your grip just a bit and allow a smaller group of qualified people to make the decisions and take the action needed.
  2. Know people’s strengths – Have a clear picture of what needs to be accomplished and include only those people who have the knowledge and skill-set to make a meaningful contribution. For example: When you invite all of the managers in the company to weigh in on a marketing decision, you are, in effect, watering down the expertise of those who have the knowledge and skill-set to make the appropriate decisions (i.e. the marketing department) with that of those who may not have the background to know what the right coarse of action is.
  3. Don’t give people unbridled veto power – You know them, the people who want to be included on every project team or in every meeting, not to contribute in any meaningful way, but because they want veto power. Instead of lending their time and talents to helping solve the problem or accomplish the task at hand, their primary contribution is criticism. This is particularly troublesome when it is coming from a manager or supervisor. Identify these people, and if possible, exclude them. If they must be included, make them pull their weight and hold them accountable if they don’t make a meaningful contribution towards reaching the common goals.

The next time you have an urge to invite the entire management staff to a meeting to determine what kind of food should be served at the company picnic, consider who really needs to be in on that decision. And the next time you are assembling a team to work on a project do just that, assign a team, rather than extending an open invitation.

Nobody wants to feel excluded or out of the loop and we all like to be involved in decisions that affect our job, but most reasonable professionals don’t expect to be included in decisions that are beyond their area of expertise.

There is certainly a time and place for inclusiveness and it is important to provide an avenue for employees to voice their opinions and make contributions in areas they feel passionate about. However, when it comes down to making decisions or getting the work done are you sacrificing efficiency for consensus?

Exclusion is not about devaluing people’s opinions or contributions; it’s about using the right people in the right places.


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