V. Ophelia Rigault


What does it mean to “belong?” I remember being at a boardroom table where someone said a racist comment and not one of my coworkers said anything. Belonging is the feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity that one feels when one is a member of a certain group.  At that moment, I felt that I did not belong. 

When we find ourselves in situations where we do not feel that we belong - we feel a sense of being "othered" or we become a member of the “out-group”.  There is a sense of psychological safety when you feel that you belong to a group. You live in a sense of security and alignment with the group's values and beliefs. You do not feel judged or oppressed. In other words, you feel safe being your authentic self.

Research shows that feeling a sense of belonging in the places we work, live and play matters because it impacts business performance, community growth, and mental wellness. Belonging is necessary for bringing out the best in everyone.  In that meeting, no leaders stood up to speak against the racist comments and from that moment on, I did not feel psychologically safe as my well-being was being threatened. 

Tony Bond speaks that belonging in the workplace helps an employee to feel that their uniqueness is accepted and treasured by their organization and colleagues. Belonging is an "accumulation of day-to-day experiences that enables a person to feel safe and bring their full, unique self to work. 

So as an inclusive leader what can you do? According to research from Coqual, creating a culture of belonging centers around the following four principles:

  1. Being seen
  2. Feeling connected
  3. Feeling supported
  4. Feeling proud

I would also add, feeling safe. If someone does not feel safe, the other four principles are difficult to achieve. If you want to learn more about how you can create a culture of belonging reach out to me and let us have a conversation.  You can connect to me through my website.


Ophelia is passionate about working alongside resilient and inclusive leaders to create equitable and inclusive work cultures through her speaking, training, community building and media appearances. Learn more about Ophelia