Inclusiveness & Democracy: A Real Test of Sportsmanship

Sportsmanship can be defined as playing fair, treating opponents with respect, following the rules and respecting the judgment of referees. We’ve all seen good sportsmanship, whether on the basketball court as players greet each other at the beginning and congratulate the winner at the end, or a football player extending a hand to help an opponent off the ground. Even in boxing, a sport I find particularly brutal, opponents touch gloves at the start, fight hard and ultimately embrace one another in congratulations.

Regardless of your political views, I think we can all agree that good sportsmanship was often lacking during this tumultuous U.S. presidential election campaign. However, on the day following the election, we heard a consistent message from the president, the president-elect and the former secretary of state: “It’s time to heal the wounds left by a hard-fought battle.” In other words, it’s time to demonstrate good sportsmanship.

What does good sportsmanship look like in the workplace?

Good sportsmanship in the workplace comes from inclusive leadership. Inclusive leaders are results-focused, able to leverage the strengths and experiences of diverse team members so they can operate at their best. Now more than ever, leaders need to embody inclusive leadership with purpose. Still not sure you know what inclusive leadership is? If you’ve ever reported to an inclusive leader, then you know how those good behaviors made you feel. And if you’ve ever reported to a manager who was not inclusive, you’ve likely entertained thoughts of leaving.

How can we embody inclusive leadership with purpose?

Look around you. Is your team made of up people who don’t look like you, think like you or have the same work style? People who do not share your heritage, religion, sexual orientation, gender, education, experience or love of current pop culture – and think retro is on fleek? If the answer is not a resounding yes, then shake up your team. If you’re part a team, suggest a shake up and explain why a diverse team is important. If you need data to support your recommendation, read this recent article in the Harvard Business Review, “Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter.

What else can we do to show support toward our people now and through future social challenges?

  • Acknowledge what’s going on.
  • Give people space, time and a forum to share their thoughts and opinions without judgement.
  • Agree on a call to action, then make a conscious decision to move forward.

And along the way, follow the rules of good sportsmanship. This is the power of democracy, where the results of an election are respected and voices are heard, both in and out of the workplace.

About Sharon Jones

As SVP/Director, Diversity & Inclusion, HR-Washington, D.C., Atlanta & Dallas, Sharon is an accomplished human resources professional who excels at building partnerships with organizational leaders in order to develop programs that align with, and help achieve, business goals. She provides strategic planning/counsel and tactical execution in all HR disciplines -- most notably talent management, organizational development/training, employee relations, and recruitment.