What If We Could Change the Culture of Work?

I believe we can change the culture of work for the better - where all employees know they can be their authentic selves, where their differences are viewed as a source of strength, and their individual contributions are recognized and valued. When more organizations understand how to cultivate this kind of workplace culture, they help their workers feel a sense purpose and belonging. Many leaders desire such workplace cultures, but often struggle with where to begin.  

Through my consulting practice, I help many leaders begin the challenging work of transforming their organizations’ culture. It is because of this work that I wrote my upcoming book, Belonging At Work: Everyday Actions You Can Take to Build an Inclusive Organization. Its purpose is to spark a #BelongingMovement designed to equip passionate visionaries, movers, and shakers with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to cultivate cultures of belonging. The book serves as a powerful blueprint to help leaders start taking intentional actions to realize the change they seek.

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Why I Wrote the Book

Credit: Justine Kelly-Fierro

Credit: Justine Kelly-Fierro

I wrote Belonging at Work because far too many people don’t feel a sense of belonging at work. Feeling like you don't belong in your workplace is stressful. It is uncomfortable, demoralizing, and takes away from your potential to offer your unique gifts and talents that contribute to your organization’s success. The lack of belonging also has an adverse impact on your personal health and well-being.

As a transgender man, I remember this stress all too well. Mine derived from constantly having to place a veil over my authentic self. Namely, I withheld sharing that I was assigned female at birth, and covered important aspects of my gender history, as they were relevant to particular conversations in the workplace. I withheld this information because my employer did not offer employment protections for transgender people, and I feared losing my job.

Not fitting in during this early employment period of my life motivated me to become a diversity, equity, and inclusion professional. Over the past 20 years, I have dedicated my life’s work to advocate for the fair treatment of employees who are at the margins – including people of color, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, undocumented workers, Veterans, and those at the intersections. Three years ago I started my own business where I continue to help leaders build more inclusive workplace cultures across a wide range of sectors. This work motivated me to write Belonging At Work.

Why Belonging At Work Matters

Credit: Abraham Maslow

Credit: Abraham Maslow

We need to belong. This need is hardwired in our brains. When we feel that we don’t belong, our threat response alerts us to potential danger. This means that feelings of not belonging - or rejection - are processed by the brain in the same way as when we experience physical pain, thirst, or hunger. Feeling rejected on a consistent basis compromises our health and well-being.

When our health is compromised, so too is our workplace performance, including our productivity, innovation, and ability to connect with our colleagues. On a macrolevel, a decline in workplace performance damages our organization’s ability to meet its mission. When leaders commit to cultivating a workplace culture of belonging, they can disrupt these negative feelings, and help workers feel a sense of purpose and belonging.

Having more employees feel purposeful on the job is an asset considering that 72%  - or 108 million - of the 150 million workers in the United States feel a lack of purpose on the job. For employers seeking a competitive advantage, it makes good sense to invest the time, energy, and resources necessary to encourage all workers to show up as their authentic selves, which leads to more employees feeling a sense of belonging. When they do, the business results speak volumes as employers will earn:

  • Loyalty from the 28% of purpose-driven employees (see graphic)

  • Advantage in the "talent war" for the brightest of the 72% of workers who lack a sense of belonging (see graphic)

  • Loyalty from the $1.3 trillion annual purchasing power of Millennials

  • Word-of-mouth praise and advertising from employees and customers

  • Loyalty from the $917 billion annual purchasing power of the LGBTQ community

  • Loyalty from the $200 billion annual purchasing power of people living with disabilities

Who Can Benefit From the Book

Belonging matters to everyone. We all understand what it feels like to belong...and what it feels like to not belong. If this message resonates with you, chances are you identify as one or more of the following people in the workplace:

  • Leader

  • Visionary

  • Change-agent

  • Mover-and-Shaker

  • Someone on the way to joining them⠀

Belonging at Work supports a variety of leaders at all levels within an organization...including YOU. You are exactly who we need to take everyday action to cultivate inclusive workplace cultures of belonging– including government agencies, non-profit organizations, or corporate enterprises. It takes a movement to make meaningful change, and that starts with you implementing the vision outlined in Belonging at Work. The vision can only be reached with your ongoing commitment.

How the Book Can Support You

Credit: Sundar Medlar

Credit: Sundar Medlar

This book share 25 everyday actions anyone on the job can take to build a healthier workplace culture. Leaders, visionaries, and those on the way to joining them, will gain a better understanding of what these strategies are, as well as learn about specific actions to avoid. Most importantly, they will gain a clear understanding as to why each of these actions are so important to your overall success.

Readers will not only be exposed to my personal story and expertise about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, but also the thoughts and insights from some of today’s most influential workplace thought leaders. Leaders include Kylar Broadus, Jennifer Brown, Joel Brown, Ashley Brundage, Dre Domingue, and Benjamin Duncan. For those interested in learning more about these experts, they will be a part of a virtual panel discussion on Tuesday, November 13 discussing what belonging at work means after the 2018 Elections.

To honor how adults learn, the book provides an exercise at the end of all nine chapters. They allow you to apply the knowledge from the chapter to your own workplace. Sample exercises include considering what actions you can take today on an individual basis, and what organizational commitments you can make now to move the need in a positive direction. There are also exercises that allow you to establish your own bold vision of what a workplace culture of belonging looks like, and actions you can take to get there.

Join the #BelongingMovement

WE NEED YOU! Are you ready to join the #belongingmovement? If you want to serve as a movement ambassador, save the date! On Tuesday, November 13, Belonging At Work will be available for purchase on Amazon and Kindle. To be among the first to get your copy, be sure to visit www.belongatwork.com and sign-up for a reminder alert. You’ll also receive a free sample chapter and some bonus content.

As a firm believer of Muhammad Ali’s message that “service to others is the rent you pay for your room on Earth,” a portion of the book’s profits will go towards expanding economic opportunities for transgender and nonbinary people (TNB). TNB people are underrepresented and historically undervalued in the workforce, and part of my volunteerism is dedicated to giving back to my community. Learn more about how I’m helping by reading about the PDX Trans Works Project.

With your support, I know we can change the culture of work for the better, so we can all truly feel we belong and can show up as our authentic selves. When you join the #belongingmovement, I encourage you to share your story on social media using this hashtag. If that feels a bit risky, consider connecting with a trusted colleague, close friend, or family member and share your workplace experiences. Our collective voices will help build the inclusive organizations we need for the future of work!


Rhodes Perry

Rhodes Perry is a nationally recognized expert on LGBTQ and social justice public policy matters, with two decades of leadership experience innovating strategy management, policy and program solutions for corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. At his core, Rhodes is an entrepreneur, where he most recently established Rhodes Perry Consulting, LLC, a national diversity and inclusion consulting firm that uses an intersectional approach to collaborate with leaders on creating solutions in the practice areas of strategy management, issue advocacy, and stakeholder engagement. Previously, Rhodes founded the Office of LGBTQ Policy & Practice at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, and prior to this assignment he served as the founding Director of Policy at PFLAG National where he led the policy strategy and advocacy efforts for the organization’s 350 chapters. He cut his teeth serving as a Program Examiner at the White House Office of Management & Budget, where he improved upon federal benefit programs designed to provide assistance to low-income communities. Rhodes earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Gender Studies from the University of Notre Dame, and obtained a Master of Public Administration from New York University.