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Creating a Welcoming Environment in the Workplace

Creating a welcoming environment is the first step toward building a community in the workplace.

An aggregate of people working in close proximity is not a community. A working community can only be created and sustained in an environment that is welcoming and conducive to personal well being and professional growth.

Persons in communities feel the tensions between sameness and difference, alikeness and uniqueness. Maya Angelou expresses this eloquently in her poem “Human Family”. I quote only two stanzas to illustrate:

I know ten thousand women called Jane and Mary Jane
but I’ve not seen any two who really were the same

I note the obvious difference between each sort and type
but we are more alike my friends than we are unalike
We are more alike my friends than we are unalike

In working environments that are not welcoming persons might feel the need to cover parts of themselves in order to fit in for fear that they will not be welcomed as they are. Unfortunately what follows this scenario is the sense that one is not seen, heard,or understood. and that certain persons are more acceptable than others.

In academic institutions there are many roles and as Maya Angelou says in her poem many “sorts and types”: for example: students, staff, tenure track faculty, clinical track faculty, administrators and part-time and temporary workers.

These roles are necessary to fulfill the missions of the schools. The difficulty comes when they become structured and solidified into a class system: potent, troublesome and reflective of the class systems in the society at large.

The first steps to creating a welcoming environment is to make it possible for all persons to have a voice and for persons in different roles to speak to each other. These are modest yet challenging steps. Would it be possible to start in any other way?

What do you think?

Mary Dombeck
School of Nursing

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