I work with organizations who want to elevate team performance by refining leadership communication skills.

#024 – Getting Comfortable with Diversity in the Workplace with Kelly Bron Johnson

As a black, nonbinary woman of mixed heritage, who is also Autistic and Hard of Hearing (HoH), Kelly Bron Johnson knows a thing or two about what it’s like to not feel included or accepted. 

Through her personal life experiences, she has now made it her mission to make workplace environments more inclusive. 

On this episode of the Workplace Communication Podcast, Kelly shares how organizations can embrace diversity and look for ways to become inclusive in order to yield harmony, trust, and greater work productivity.

Leadership tips you won’t want to miss:

  • Why adaptations for one don’t need to be offered to all
  • Bringing a more human understanding to the workplace
  • How avoiding assumptions increases belonging
  • Trust as a core element to inclusion and diversity

Mx. K. Bron Johnson is an Autistic and Hard of Hearing (HoH) self-advocate, and founder of Completely Inclusive, social enterprise consultancy devoted to Inclusion and Accessibility in the workplace. As a Black nonbinary woman of mixed heritage, she brings her lived experience and intersecting identities to all her work, and challenges people to see Disabled People, LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and all oppressed or marginalized peoples in a different light.

Bron is also interested in mitigating the effects of Colonialism and Intergenerational Trauma and how we can all work together to dismantle systemic inequities in society.

She lives with her life partner and two children in Montreal, Canada.

If you’re committed to bringing more diversity to your workplace, then this episode is for you!

If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please be sure to subscribe and leave a review. 

Kelly’s contact information:

Website: https://aenetwork.ca https://compinclus.ca

Book: How to Parent Like An Autistic

Instagram: @kbronjohn

Lindsay’s contact information: 

To book a discovery call: https://calendly.com/lindsaylapaquette/discovery-call

E-mail: [email protected]

Website: https://lindsaylapaquette.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lindsaylapaquette/

Previous podcast episodes:  https://lindsaylapaquette.com/podcast


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Full Transcipt


Welcome back again, everyone to another episode of the workplace communication podcast. I’m your host, Lindsay Lapaquette. And today we’re joined by Kelly Bron Johnson, who’s going to be talking to us about getting comfortable with diversity in the workplace. Kelly, thanks for coming on here with me today.


Thanks so much for having me.


Kelly Bron Johnson is an autistic and hard of hearing, self-advocate, and founder of completely enclosed inclusive, a social enterprise consultancy devoted to inclusion and accessibility in the workplace. As a black, non-binary woman of mixed heritage, she brings her lived experience and intersecting identities to all her work and challenges people to see disabled people, LGBTQ plus black and indigenous people of color BIPOC, and all oppressed or marginalized peoples in a different light. Kelly, I’m really looking forward to getting into this topic here with you because I think you have a really particular perspective on the topic and a lot of insight. Because of what you described in your bio, here, you’re intersecting identities. Can you talk to me a little bit about your journey of what has brought you to the work that you’re doing today?


Yeah, it’s been an interesting kind of a donkey path of, of my life of the way that I’ve kind of led my career and, and the choices I’ve made. Some of it is, you know, outside circumstances and things that have happened to me; my experiences in the workplace. And some of it was actually my son, a very interesting story where my son is also autistic. And I had gone with the nonprofit organization to Parliament in Ottawa, to fight for the disability tax credit, which he’s able to receive right now, but only until he’s 18. And so I told him, I said, You know, I just tried to make the path easier for other people, I’m trying to make the path easier for you so that when you go into the workplace, you know, you’re not going to have these problems. And he was eight at the time. And he’s like, Well, you’ve got 10 years mom, like, what’s the problem? And I was like, Oh, you know, the gumption of a child, that’s true. 10 years is a long time. So maybe I can do a lot in 10 years. So I went ahead and registered my business completely inclusive, and decided, I’m going to start trying to make real change in the workplace, by making sure that places are accommodating and inclusive and accessible to everyone.


Yeah, it’s a big journey. And I think that there’s still a ton of work to be done in this field. And you and I were talking earlier, before we started recording about the notion of how, if one person gets something, then it needs to be offered equitably to everybody within the organization. Which, of course, then makes it difficult to adapt to anybody whose needs are different. And I’d like to even say that people have different needs. People have different needs, whether you have a disability, or whether it’s based on your cultural identity, we’re just different people to begin with, right? Whether you have one of these socially constructed identities that put somebody into a marginalized group, I think that does obviously bring different challenges. And I think there needs to be a big focus on that. But underlyingly, I think part of the challenge is this notion that everybody needs the same, or we have to give everybody the same thing. I believe everyone should have the same access, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they need the same thing. How do you help people work through those two different notions because they seem somewhat contradictory or incompatible?


They’re not. And it’s interesting. I’m going to I’m going to challenge this whole concept. If I give pizza to one person, I have to give it to everybody. Well, when we really know with, with concepts like universal design, that when you do something that benefits a few people, it actually benefits everyone. One example of that would be having an automatic door opener. I’m sure, even if you’re not a wheelchair user, many people have used automatic door openers. Their hands might be full, they might be pushing baby carriage. You’ve benefited from this design that was not designed for you but it’s designed to make people’s lives easier. So by doing that, everybody is able to easily go through doors, or the same thing with a ramp. Most people will take a ramp instead of taking the stairs. And the same way they’ll take an elevator instead of taking the stairs. When you have these options here, and people can choose what is most comfortable for them, that’s when you’re going to have equity. That’s when you’re going to have a workplace that is comfortable for everyone. I challenge the idea when people say, “Well, if I have to give it to one person, I have to give it to everybody else.” Yes, you could, and you have two options. You could just uniformly offer the same perks, let’s say to everyone, which is not necessarily a bad thing. If one person says that they need noise cancelling headphones, that cost you 20 bucks, and let’s say you give it to everybody, or you make them available for everybody, doesn’t mean everybody has to go and take it. But just like you have a supply room, you’ve got pens, you’ve got pencils, you’ve got erasers, you’ve got paper, you’ve got different things, people should be able to go to their supply room and be able to take the things that they need for them to do their best work. It’s more about offering what will make people’s lives easier, and then allowing them to empower themselves because most people know what they want and what they need in order to do their best work. And we can see that people do always really want to do their best work. There was a study I read recently, and one of the things that they the highest satisfaction came from people doing excellent work, and they got their satisfaction in the workplace, not from getting paid more. And not from different perks that they had offered, it was from feeling that they could do their best work in the workplace, which is amazing. I think there’s a doubt in a lot of large corporations minds, they think that people are lazy, or that people aren’t going to work if you’re not watching them, if you’re not doing this, you’re not doing that. We’ve seen, even during this pandemic, how the minute that things shut down, everybody went and started trying to do something productive. Everybody was doing the sourdough starter, everybody was making bread suddenly, right? People were running around going on the internet, and they were learning things. They were going back to classes, they were hosting webinars so that they could connect with each other and do something. It shows you how much people want to work and how much people want their routine. This is something that’s in human nature, and everybody wants to do this. So we look at disabled people, too. They want to be involved. We want to be out in society, we want to be productive, we just have to be given that opportunity. And that access.


Just to go back a bit here, your analogy of the supply room, is so poignant, because never have I seen an organization say, “We have trainers who give workshops and they’re going to get a projector and a clicker and the sticky notes that stick to the wall. And hence, we need to buy one of those for every single employee in this organization.” Because to be fair, everyone needs to have access to those same materials, right? That’s ridiculous. No organization would do that. And yet, when it comes to things that people actually need, not related to that specific presentation, but to be able to effectively do their role. That’s where this notion of everyone having the same comes at, which is actually pretty contradictory. I’d invite people to reflect on that and where these ideas and biases really are coming from. In my previous career, as most of my listeners know, I used to be a speech-language pathologist. My mother was a teacher and sometimes she used to ask me for help with some of the students she was struggling with in her classroom. And so I might say to her, have you ever tried letting him chew gum in the classroom? Have you ever tried letting him sit on a bouncy ball and she would say to me, “We can’t do that because all of the kids would want that.” I’d get so frustrated with her because this was my mom and I’d be a little less patient; I would say to her, “Hey, Mom, this kid needs this to focus and to be able to do his work. That doesn’t mean you have to offer it, yes, you can make it available to the other students.” Like you said, others may benefit from it too. But that is a necessary requirement to give this one child what they need. And then she had her own grandchildren, many of who have disabilities. And that was when I saw a huge shift in her offering adaptations to her students, because she started to understand that by not doing so, they weren’t able to show up as their best self, they weren’t able to complete their work as much. And so to make the parallel there to the workplace, I guess I’d invite people to reflect on, where these notions come from, that everyone has to have the same doesn’t come from us being kids and being told, at the dinner table, that everyone has to have the exact same. These are deeply ingrained notions that I think we have to really challenge. I’d like to get a bit more though into helping people understand. You talked earlier about part of your journey being what you experienced in the workplace. And I’d like to invite you to because if you’re not comfortable speaking of that, I don’t want to put you on the spot talking about this. But if you’re comfortable, I’d like to learn a little bit about what that experience was like to help people understand what it’s like to try to live in a world where there are struggles to adapt to different people’s needs.


I have an interesting case in the sense that I wasn’t diagnosed with autism until my early 30s. I went through a lot of my career, and all of my schooling, not having accommodations, because I didn’t know that, you know, I didn’t know how to diagnosis, I knew I was different. So I also want to also kind of touch on the fact that labels are important. Labels are, sometimes a necessary means to an end to get to, again, to be able to be your best self and to be able to have that self-awareness. For me, people often ask me, what’s your diagnosis? Are you sad, were you upset? I think there is always going to be a period of mourning for me. It was the fact that I didn’t get a diagnosis, I didn’t get the help that I need. I felt that I had struggled unnecessarily. I felt like I was failed by a system. But having the diagnosis then gave me the knowledge that I needed to be able to move forward. And to have better experiences in the workplace and with relationships. What often used to happen before was I just blamed myself, I thought there was something wrong with me. So if things weren’t working out in the workplace, if I was misunderstood, I would just quit, I just up and quit and I didn’t try to work through it because I didn’t know even how to work through it. I figured I just must be so flawed or so broken, that it’s not possible. I find there was a lot of misunderstandings. And I think that still happens today, especially with a profile like mine. Autism is not really you know, this is very stereotyped[CD1] . We often think of a white male, we don’t think of people of color, we don’t think of women. People will see it as a character flaw. And the other issue that I have is that I have high intelligence. I’m not trying to like to boast or anything, but I have a very high IQ. And so is my son, we have a very similar profile. When people see that, or when they interact with me, they forget that I might be struggling in other ways. I have challenges in other ways. And what happens is if I make a mistake if I make a social gaffe, they think well she’s smart. She must know better, how could she have possibly have not done that on purpose or to manipulate me or something like that? They always jump to the most horrible, you know, the most the worst possible interpretation of it when it was really guess it unintelligent, but I still make errors. And, and completely innocently. And I think it’s very hard for people to reconcile those two things. When they say, “Well, you know, she was super productive yesterday, she did all this. And now today, she did not do anything. And she’s kind of rude.” I’m honestly not thinking; my head is somewhere else. It’s not about a person, it’s not about a situation, it really is that my brain is inconsistent. It goes up and down. And I can’t always, I’m not always in control the way I would like to be of certain aspects of the challenges that come with autism.


I think to the fact that autism is really portrayed in the media in a very stereotypical manner. So I think of different shows that I’ve watched, that it doesn’t leave space to understand the more nuanced impacts. And like you say, then, when you don’t fit that profile my question to you is, do you have people questioning? Do you really have autism? I’m not asking if you do, but I’m asking, do you? I’m not questioning it, I’m asking. That inconsistency, that gap between how they see autism, and then how they see you is that does that feed into them not being able to see the challenges you’ve just described as being related to your diagnosis versus being related to you?


I think they forget, that happens for when I’ve worked in offices before, it’s kind of like, one of the things I often bring up is that even if the person is performing, well, they still need the same accommodations. More, they might need different accommodations, depending on how things go. But yes, I think people they forget, or maybe it’s just that misunderstanding of autism and what it means. And, you know, I’ve had people say when I told them, “Oh, you don’t, you don’t look autistic, I would never have expected that.”

And that’s, you know, it doesn’t have a look, there can be times when I make a joke, oh, my autism’s showing. This has happened many times before, especially when people don’t know me very well.

This happened, once when I was volunteering. I was with this wonderful group of ladies. Towards the end of the evening, I start to get kind of tired. We have this thing called masking in autism. I think a lot of people with disabilities will do this, because they don’t want to show the disability. And that’s because of stigma. But anyway, I can usually function for an hour or two and act like everyone else and be social like everyone else. And it’s not a facade, it’s not fake. But I do it so that I will fit in so that I’m not bullied. I can get along with people, and I can do my volunteer shift and be happy. Anyways, towards the end of the evening, I’m packing up my stuff, and somebody came in, she tapped me on the shoulder, she goes, “Are you okay?” And I said, in my head, Oh, my autism’s showing. It’s because my body language shows I’m tired. My body language will change and I start staring into space a bit. And I’ll kind of move a lot slower trying to do things. And so it might look like I’m maybe sick or lost, or I’m not really sure. In my mind, I’m okay. And I’m just doing what I need to do. And then I’m going to go home, but as it becomes visible, that my energy has changed, some people will take it personally, like, Oh, she hates us, oh, she’s bored. You want to be here anymore? Or she must be really super tired. Or, you know, even a worst case, Oh, she must be drunk. It could be anything.

And as assumptions, it’s just my autism. Sorry.


Yeah. Well, you know, it seems like your body is then showing the signs of how taxing it is, you know, to be in that social environment. And although you have the skills to be able to do that there’s a different cost maybe to your body than someone else’s. And it does sound like there’s a lot of assumptions going on as to what’s going on. So if you’re looking at somebody in the workplace, right now we’re talking specific to disability, and autism really wanting to be more sensitive to this, what are some ways to approach a situation like that in a way that’s more inclusive?


So for me, it’s always about empathy. And that’s I, I’m almost trying to teach empathy in a sense, but understanding that the same way that we all get up and we have different days, we’re not always on the ball, we have different things going on in our lives, you know, a family member could be sick, whatever it is, and understanding that other people are going to have those issues as well. And they’re not necessarily going to come out and tell you, especially in the workplace, it really depends. So to kind of understand that everybody’s got their own intersecting issues that are going to affect their day and their work. We can’t always like 100% of the time, we can’t always show up and be like, hey, it’s a great day, you know, there’s no workplace that works like that. I’ve never seen a workplace that everybody is like that all the time. Yeah, it’s not sustainable. It’s not natural. It’s not, it’s not human. And I really think it’s important to really remember that human side, in the workplace as much as possible. Without You don’t have to get into the nitty gritty of people’s personal lives, you know, we have, we can have safe workplace boundaries. But we can also have a very human understanding of the fact that you know, the person next to you might have a chronic pain disorder, and they could be having a flare up right now. And they’re not going to necessarily tell you, people are going to continue to kind of what they call, you know, push through it. Because they know that if they stop, that, they simply won’t be able to get moving again. You know, there could be, you know, I often use an analogy of somebody who’s, let’s say, their mom is having chemo, and they want to be at the hospital with them every two weeks. But they can’t, for whatever reason. So they’re, they’re going to be preoccupied, they’re going to be thinking about their mom having chemo right now. And so they’re not going to show up 100% that day, it’s not possible, but they’re not necessarily going to want to go up to you and go, Hey, you know, I’m really sad, because my mom’s having chemo right this moment. Right? So it’s about kind of just trying to keep in your head, that everybody’s got their own struggles. And even if everybody looks put together, you know, you’ve got your makeup on, you’ve got your best suit on, everything’s great. And you show up on time, it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a huge challenge to get to that point.


What you’re saying about empathy here, I think is such a huge part of it. And part of the challenge I see in workplaces is kind of like you’ve described here that it’s almost as if empathy can be offered, if someone’s willing to disclose, hey, I have autism, hey, I’m struggling with this, hey, this is going on. I’m not saying empathy is always offered in those situations, but more likely, but the challenges that not everyone wants to disclose, and nor should they be obliged to, to, you know, empathy should not be conditional on sharing that you have a real valid reason for, for empathy. And so can you talk to me a little bit about the boat, you know, this feels complex to me in the workplace, right? That that notion of being allowing people to have their privacy around what is going on in their personal lives, while also offering them what they need? How can people get to that understanding, I guess, is what I’m asking without, obliging people to share. Things that they’re uncomfortable sharing because of the stigma.


I try to kind of, I mean, it might sound selfish, but I try to get people to bring it back to themselves about what they would like best for themselves and it’s kind of very much like treat people how you would like to be treated. And but that to be to be the kindness and gentleness, self that you can. It almost sounds like now when I when I was saying it back, it almost sounds like an anti bullying campaign, but it to some extent, you know, a lot of these things, having building that empathy and just building that understanding of that different perspective of what somebody else might be going through without, without them having to tell you exactly what they’re going through. And I think it’s really important that you could, you know, I usually, I think managers should probably have a closer relationship to some extent, but rather than coming at it as this person is willfully trying to be difficult or this person is willfully not interested in their work or is being lazy or whatever, to just kind of you can go up to somebody or have a private conversation and say Is everything okay? Is there something I can do for you? You know, is there a resource that we have here work? It could be a, you know, employee assistance program or counseling or something. But is there something? Is it? Is it the work? Is it in your life? Is it temporary? Is it you know, those kind of things, and somebody could just say, you know, what, my dog just died last week. And I’ve been really struggling. And I didn’t want to say that, because it sounds so trivial. And, but just having that understanding, you know, because then a manager can then say, Oh, you know, what that’s happened to me, too. I know what it’s like, why don’t you take a day off? You know, we don’t normally, you know, that’s not part of the HR policy or anything like that, you know, but why don’t you take a day off or two and, and regroup and, and come back better, instead of instead of forcing yourself to, you know, you’re not going to be as productive. And I really, that comes down to trust, it does come down to trust in the end. So it’s a kind of a whole pronged approach when I when I talk to people. Sure, there are, when we talk about having this flexibility in the workplace, and trying to work with people for what they need. There might be a few people who abuse it, but those people are really in the minority. We even see it when, when workplaces offer unlimited vacation, guess what, nobody takes unlimited vacation. No one, right. That’s not again, people have this intrinsic need to be productive and to work. So nobody, normally, if somebody is abusing it, really, truly abusing that something that’s, that’s, you know, that’s a reason that you can you can probably let them go at some point. But most of the time, people do not ask for what they need people hide things. And people do not take everything that they are given. So it’s, to me, it’s not these things aren’t impossible, it comes down to trusting that your employees are adults, and that they’re going to only ask for what they need, and only take what they need without going overboard. And, and but also trust that they know how to be their best selves, and that they can be trusted to do what they need to do, when the time comes without, you know, verifying everything and being micromanaging over them.


That part of trust, too, I think it’s a dynamic, right? Because when you’re when people are not trusted, they do tend to take more sort of like in revenge, right? You know, I’m not allowed to have this, this time off, I need to take my mom to chemo. So I’m going to take a week off, you know, I’m just going to, and so I can see where then people don’t feel that if they step back, that they can trust people. But my experience has been that when we can reset that. And when people start to feel trusted, that’s where that sort of equilibrium hits where people take what they need. And don’t take an advantage. And like you said, there’s always one or two who kind of spoil that notion from the rest, but they need to be dealt with separately. And this is a bit of a tangent, but I was on disability for two years disability leave from work for two years when I was in my mid 20s. And it was interesting to me going through that how I was immediately perceived, not necessarily by my employer, but by insurance as faking. Because of the few who fake to go on a disability leave, they kind of spoiled it for the rest of us who were actually frankly injured working very hard in multiple therapies to get back to work. And it was just interesting to me to see how that that negative experience they’d had with a few then tainted the whole approach. And I think the parallel here being Of course, that I think that happens sometimes in the workplace, right? There have been one or two employees or a small number of employees who Yeah, take way too much. And so these approaches to make sure that nobody does that kind of come in sweepingly across the organization and what it does then is it damages the relationship with the rest. And the other thing I wanted to touch on was your part about seeing people as you know, I guess trustworthy but as kind of knowing what they need. Like to me that’s such a key part of being able to make this shift is passing that responsibility over to the employee for what is truly their responsibility, right to recognize what they need to be effective in this role. And I guess, yeah, back to trust, trusting that they don’t abuse that I’d like to talk a little bit about you touched on this a bit. But when somebody in the workplace isn’t getting the adaptations, the accommodations that they need, what cost is that to the person and to the organization when they when they can’t bring their best work forward?


So we know that when employees are accommodated, that they increase the productivity of a team. And we know actually, very specifically, very strangely that when disabled people are brought onto a team and accommodated, the productivity of the whole team increases. And I’m not exactly 100 sure why that is yet. But I think it might just be because of people’s perceptions of disability, especially the visible ones, they’d be like, you know, what, Bob faces a lot of challenges to come into work every day. Because he’s wheelchair user, and he has to wait for adaptive transport. And sometimes he’s late because of it. But he shows up, he’s got a great attitude, he’s working hard. And then other people kind of realize that like, Oh, you know, I just walked five minutes to work. And I shouldn’t have this, you know, crappy attitude, maybe I should do better. And interesting. So it kind of it just raises the performance level. In comparison, people, I don’t really like it in some ways, because it’s kind of like inspiration porn, you know, when we say, Oh, well, they’re so inspiring. So then that means I’m going to, that means I should climb Mount Kilimanjaro now. But for whatever reason, that is, that is one of the effects. It’s that when, when somebody is hired, somebody who’s diverse, is hired and is performing well, other people will raise their level, to meet that level. We’ve seen it as well, in terms of customer service, that when people see themselves represented in the employees of a company, that they’re happier, they’re more loyal, and they want to go there more. So it increases your, your, your profits, as well. So you’ve got the productivity aspect, you’ve got the profit aspect. We also bring innovation, because, you know, especially disabled people, but also people from diverse places who might work differently, become with different ideas about how the world works. And we come with a problem solving the problem solving attitude. Because we’ve experienced life in a world that’s not made for us. So we tend to kind of think outside the box a bit more. And that brings innovation. So basically, the cost of not accommodating, and not having diversity in your team is basically, you know, I hate to say it, but people are just going to the competition is going to take you over, you’re going to be left in the dumps, you’re going to be a relic of the past. It doesn’t make good business sense, at all, yeah, to just to ignore these aspects. And, you know, like I said, People come most of the time, not every time. So most of time, people know what they need to do a good job. Sometimes that takes some time for them to learn on the job, and then figure out exactly what they need. But we do know that most accommodations, that let’s say they have to be implemented in a workplace to make their lives easier, they cost under $500. Canadian. Like, that’s nothing. And if you look at employee retention and stuff like that, it’s 500 bucks is nothing to keep a loyal employee. Because otherwise, you know, a wheelchair user is going to come with a wheelchair, they’re not going to ask you to buy them their wheelchair, they’re  already set, all you have to do is get them a desk and take the chair out so that they can fit. That’s, you know, that’s it. So yeah, it’s very little cost and a lot of gain for you to start making these changes. And you can keep the status quo. That’s, that’s, that’s up to you if how, how you want to run your business, but like I said, I don’t think that that’s going to be sustainable in the long run.


Yeah, I do think this is the wave of the future. And I, you know, it pains me to say that because I think this is something that should have been, shouldn’t really be future. I know, it’s ongoing. But, you know, really, we I don’t think in 2020 we should we should be you know where we are in terms of having much more diversity in the workplace. But I do think that more and more companies who are getting on board with this, like you said are going to be left behind. I so what about people who are telling you that you know, they just don’t have the time to look at this. You know, I hear people saying we buy into diversity and inclusion is important to us. But we just don’t have the time to focus on this now, because we are, you know, focusing on other business initiatives, but this is something on our radar, you know, how do you convince them? why it’s so important, you know, to get on board with this now,


it because, you know, it’s  hitting people now, even if you don’t, if you don’t want to accept it, or you don’t want to really take notice of it, it is going to affect every part of your business. You know, it’s interesting, because I’ve, I’ve worked with a large business that simply told me that they could not find skilled workers in a particular industry. I don’t want to say too much. But yeah, there’s a particular industry, and they said they could not find any diverse skilled workers. And I was like, how could that be that like, you have offices all over the world, and you’re telling me you can’t find like one black? Whatever. You know, it doesn’t make sense, right? We know that they’re out there. So there’s something that you’re doing in your advertising, in your in your job postings in the way that you’re even the way that you’re advertising your company culture that is making people not want to apply, because they know that they’re not going to be welcome. So it’s affecting you now the same way. Like I said, we know that when customers see themselves reflected in the business, they’re more likely to go to there. So not going to give an example when I was learning American Sign Language. And once somebody in the deaf community found a business that they liked, where they felt that they had good service. Oh my gosh, they told they told everyone, and so it became the whole, you know, the whole Deaf community in Montreal was like, wow, we’re all going to this one dentist. Because she’s able to sign to us in ASL. So all of them are all going to the same dentist, right? she she’s never going to close. Because, you know, and they tell their friends, they’re going to tell their families, it’s not like, you know, it’s not like anybody operates in isolation. So their families are going to go to just because, well, you know what, my son got really good service here. I’m gonna go, Oh, my nephew was able to do his ASL. I just love this person, I’m going to just it kind of just keeps going. So, again, I guess it’s up to people, how they, how they I’m not gonna tell people how to run their businesses, but there are people out there and they will benefit your business. And, again, if you’re only looking at it in terms of dollars and cents, I do think that there’s a social aspect that it’s the right thing to do. But if you are only going to look at it at dollar cents, there’s his argument for that as well.


So when you were talking before there about how sometimes companies may be looking to hire someone from a diverse background, and they say they can’t find someone that perhaps the culture of the organization or the way the postings are set up, may not be drawing that person. And I think that’s something that can give organizations a lot of food for thought, because diversity and inclusion can’t just be about, we’re going to hire that token person in each of these different groups, so that we can say, diversity inclusion are important to us, right, there also needs to be the environment within where that person feels welcome for who they are. And I think when you were talking earlier about that study, that shows that when somebody is hired with a disability, that it brings up the performance of the whole group, part of what I wondered, was, is part of that because organizations who are hiring people with disabilities, have done some deeper work to ensure or Well, you know, whether it’s that work is done, I don’t know if it’s ever done. But they’re doing some ongoing work, that is shifting that culture in a way that people are now moving towards accepting people for who they are in the battle allows people to bring their best selves to work. And that that kind of, you know, also increases everybody’s performance. Because I think it’s, I think true inclusion is much more than just hiring people with diverse backgrounds.


It’s absolutely has to come from the top down. And it’s really, I try to impress upon people that it’s not just about who you’re hiring. And like you said, you can’t just drop somebody in to a horrible culture and expect them to be okay. Especially if there’s only one of them and no sensitization has gone on. It’s also about who you already have, it’s about making who you already have more comfortable and able to be open. That’s why one of the things I advocate for is to get a baseline, and understand who you already have in your, in your company, when I start working with businesses. Because a lot of identities are invisible, like for instance, the LGBTQ community might be invisible, that mental health community’s going to be fairly invisible. And so you don’t you don’t actually know how diverse you are unless you start asking people to disclose. And we know that people are always scared to disclose because they fear any sort of retribution or being passed up for promote promotion. So you know, it’s, it’s one in eight people in Canada will experience a mental health crisis at some point in their life. You know, one in eight. So you’re definitely in any workplace, you know, you’re definitely sitting next to somebody who has had an issue at some point. It could be chronic, or it could be temporary. But we know that one in eight people has experienced this. And why didn’t six people identified as being on the LGBTQ in part of the LGBTQ community? And again, you’re not necessarily going to know what unless they tell you. So you are already working with diverse people, I guarantee it, you know, I think it’s one. It’s what we know. So we know 25% of people have disabilities in Canada, we know 15% of those are neurodiverse. So again, what we call the invisible disabilities, but chronic pain and movement disorders are the highest disabilities in Canada. So you’re not necessarily going to see or know that somebody has lupus, or Fibromyalgia or any sort of chronic pain disorder. You know, unless they’re unless they’re moving differently, but even then, you know, you’re not really 100% Sure. So these people are there. And they could benefit from accommodations, they could benefit from increased understanding, they could benefit from not having microaggressions in the workplace. So you have to change the culture, absolutely, from the inside and from the top down. And this has to be part of your policies and how you’re going to move forward. It doesn’t just come from, well, I’ll check some boxes and make a statement and bring a few people in and you know, should sort itself out? It doesn’t work like that.


Yeah, my experience has been that there often is a need for an external consultant to guide that. Because when you’re so close to it within your organization, it’s hard to have the same objectivity in terms of, you know, setting things up in a way that that that is truly inclusive and figuring out the steps to that behavioral change. because like you said, That’s not an overnight process. For people who are interested in taking further look at your work through your company, Completely Inclusive, where’s the best place for them to find you, Kelly.


So I always make a joke that I’m not, I’m not hard to find. I’m very active on social media. So I have my website. It’s quite long, I have a shortened version. And I have a long version. But either way, if you look for Completely Inclusive, you will find me on the web. I’m active on LinkedIn, quite a bit on Facebook, not so much on Twitter. But otherwise, I’m still very accessible and very, very easy to contact.


Okay, so we’ll put Kelly’s contact info in the shownotes. And if you’re looking to really take a dive into your corporate culture to see like Kelly said, take stock already of the diversity of your employees and work towards increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace, I’d encourage you to reach out and connect with her. And Kelly, thanks so much for coming on here today and sharing all of your expertise with us. I really appreciate the work that you’re doing in the world.

So thank you, everyone, for listening. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this interview with Kelly, and that it’s opened your eyes a little bit to some of the struggles of feeling truly included in the workplace and what you can do to help people feel more included and really have the same opportunities as everyone else within the workplace. And like Kelly said, there are so many advantages to that both on a social level and financially. So I hope this has been helpful for you today. I look forward to coming back again next week and listening. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, I’d love it if you would leave us a review wherever you’re listening because the reviews help other people to discover all the great guests that I interview week to week. And of course if any of your leaders are looking for support in developing their leadership communication skills, in order to elevate team performance, I’d invite you to check out my contact info which is in the show notes and reach out to me for discovery call. Thanks everyone. Have a great day.

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Lindsay Lapaquette, M.Sc.(A) works with organizations who want to invest in elevating team performance by refining leadership communication skills. Lindsay’s background as a former Speech-Language Pathologist, specialized in working with clients with social interaction challenges, brings a unique perspective that helps leaders and organizations get to the root of complex communication issues so they can save time, money and sanity.

Lindsay’s approach has been profoundly influenced by her work with First Nations organizations, her experience as a parent to two children with pervasive mental health challenges, and the premature loss of both of her parents. These experiences have taught Lindsay great lessons about the power of excellent people skills that extend beyond her professional expertise.

To learn more about Lindsay’s programs, please visit lindsaylapaquette.com

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