It’s not an uncommon occurrence in the modern workplace for managers to invite department members out for informal networking events—talking shop after hours at a local bar or getting to know each other over lunch. These meetups are generally healthy for organizational culture and can lead to increased productivity and engagement. However, unconscious bias can leave team members feeling left out, particularly those from traditionally marginalized groups. That isn’t to say inviting one employee rather than another is particularly nefarious—research on affinity bias shows we are naturally drawn to people like ourselves—but it’s up to managers to make sure these informal meetings benefit the entire team, not just the members who remind each other of themselves. To combat these biases, managers should learn about their employees' preferences, particularly those who are underrepresented. After-work drinks sound great until you realize it can exclude the women in your team, who often shoulder much of the responsibility of childcare. To help with this, a diverse planning committee should be formed, particularly when it comes to formal company events. “All employees [should] contribute to the content of the event, especially women, junior colleagues, and people of color,” advises Susi Collins, senior program manager of diversity and inclusion at Nordstrom.
Making Informal Meetups More Inclusive