The Organizer #21 | Management

How do I promote information sharing and inclusion? Look out for people using knowledge to gain power, and use technology to make sure everyone is included in group discussions.

Share knowledge to foster inclusion

Knowledge is power. When you share knowledge, you share power. The more people know about their particular issues, donors, budget, or team, the more effective they can be. Then, they garner more respect and the more influence they have.

Knowledge helps you find satisfaction in your work. It feels good to make a difference in your community and to hit your fundraising goals. It feels good to be able to perform complicated tasks easily, without the same effort it took when you started out.

We all want to feel empowered at work

Feeling good about your work isn’t a luxury or an indulgence. It’s a necessity.

People who don’t understand what they are doing or don’t believe their effort makes a difference eventually tune out. In extreme cases, they may even burnout. They almost always leave.

To keep people engaged and motivated, organizations need to ensure that access to information isn’t treated as a reward or used as leverage for power.

If you aren’t sure how freely information flows in your organization, look for three things: excluding, hiding, or isolating.

Exclusion takes place when people are not invited to attend meetings where information is being shared that affects their work, projects, and responsibilities. If knowledge is being shared, make sure the people who need it are invited.

Hiding takes place when people are not given access to files and documents related to their projects and responsibilities. Make sure everyone has access to the organization’s knowledge so they can do their jobs well.

Isolating happens when people aren’t informed about changes to project goals and timelines or the status of the project in general. You can isolate an individual or an entire team of people. It’s important to take time to give people the context they need to make creative, informed choices.

You may be controlling information by accident

Withholding knowledge from people isn’t always mean-spirited. Have you ever forgotten to include someone on an chat thread? Or left them off because you didn’t remember their email address?

Maybe you’ve heard (or said) something like this:

  • He’s too busy, let’s not bother him with this now
  • She really gets it — it’s not her project, but let’s bring her in anyway
  • This is complicated, I’m not sure if they would understand it
  • She’s so new, she won’t get the history

Maybe you’ve silently felt something like this:

  • I just want to talk to someone who will understand where I’m coming from
  • I need to know this issue will get handled, and I trust her most
  • He’s so much fun to be around, I’ll add him to the list

Sharing knowledge makes team members stronger. Missing out, makes them weaker — regardless of how it happens.

Imagine that you are dropped from a meeting invitation, email thread, or group chat. Or imagine you can’t access the background files, documentation, and information you need for your project. What happens next?

You are out of the loop, so your teammates don’t trust you. They think that you don’t know as much as they do, or that you aren’t able to keep up with them. As a result, they stop including you in important conversations. Then the gap between their knowledge and your knowledge widens. As your performance and your reputation decline, your team shares even less with you. So you perform even worse.

It takes effort and intention to share knowledge.

Some people are harmed more than others

Withholding information doesn’t just hurt individuals or make it hard for them to succeed. It reinforces barriers that affect certain groups of people more than others — you know, the systemic barriers that many social impact organizations are trying to tear down.

For people who are members of certain groups, it happens more often than others. For example, people of colour, women, people with physical disabilities, allophones, newcomers, young people, older people, and neurodiverse people are routinely overlooked, ignored, or excluded.

If you care about inclusion in your organization, then you have to care about sharing knowledge.

Don’t choose who to include on a case-by-case basis

Every time someone chooses who to include in a project update, meeting, or chat, they have an opportunity to overlook or exclude someone.

Instead of leaving inclusion up to chance, spell out exactly who needs to be in the loop on certain activities and topics. Make it easy for people to share information. Give everyone a chance to succeed.

Technology can help

  1. Create group emails for organization-wide announcements, individual projects, and committees, boards or working groups. Make sure everyone who is in those groups knows it, knows how to send messages to the group, and knows who to contact if they have questions or need support. Take the time to ensure people are truly comfortable with the technology.
  2. Do the same thing for group chats (using Slack, Teams, etc.). Make sure everyone knows how to communicate with people working on the same project and within the same department.
  3. Train managers to communicate with teams inclusively. Managers are often the ones deciding who to invite to a conversation, sharing files, managing onboarding, and initiating important conversations. If they change who they engage on an ad hoc basis, everyone else will do the same thing. Managers need to model inclusion.

Email groups and chat apps are not going to solve all internal communications issues and they won’t erase bias. What technology can do is stop your organization from making an easy mistake.

How to use technology to share knowledge equitably

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