Bring your whole self to work… as long as we like it

Photo: Me at work in Tokyo

The future of work is many things. One of them is more inclusive. This is not a philosophical plea, but an observation — with nearly 8 billion people on the planet and an extremely interconnected world, we will have more variety at the (virtual) office than ever before.

WIth every generation, yesterday’s shocker is today’s status quo.

Sometimes it’s bodies… Pants for women! Natural hair for Black teammates! Visible tattoos for Gen Z! Not asking your trans colleague about their genitalia!

Sometimes it’s gadgets… Pagers that beep to signify you’re in demand! Phones on silent to signify you’re respectful! Headphones for focus… or to drown out others’ voices!

Sometimes it’s politics… Don’t talk about who you’re voting for! Don’t talk about not voting! Don’t talk about current events in case it’s distracting! Don’t not talk about current events in case you look uninformed!

I’ll spare us from a longer list. Ultimately, what is and isn’t respectful is cultural. It’s opinion. It changes from company to company, office to office, and even colleague to colleague. Today’s unthinkable is tomorrow’s yawn.

So when we talk about inclusion in the future, instead of mandating what is and ins’t OK, we’d do well to look inside, at ourselves. How can we observe and hold space for others, not react?

I’ll borrow from the sex positive community here: “Don’t yuck my yum.” In other words, you do you, as long as you’re not judging someone else. And, expect the same courtesy in return. To be inclusive isn’t to make a list of correct ways to be. It’s the art of letting be.

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