Wanting more human at work: A plea to managers and leaders

Martin Luther King did not say “I have a mission statement”.

Simon Sinek


For many employees, they simply feel within them a sense of restlessness and discontent they cannot explain….like something is quietly gnawing away at them. Many employees may feel it more strongly and leave their workplace in order to fulfil their passion and longing, wanting their time here on this planet to leave an imprint in some way. 

Others may feel that working life is not fully sustaining them on many levels and are simply waiting for the pain of staying where they are at work, to be greater than the fear of leaving, having to then face uncertainty and the unknown. 

However strong these feelings are within them, we know that this restlessness about how unfulfilled and disengaged people are at work is on the increase.

And while many are suffering in silence, this predicament of ambivalence can be to the detriment of business growth and success.

What are we searching for?

We are definitely wanting more from our place of work, craving growth, peace and happiness, judging by the ever growing self development market currently at $11 billion. 

As we are unfolding and evolving as humans, our workplaces need to reflect our growth. At the risk of sounding cynical, our workplaces for many, are reflecting our discontent, unhappiness and lack of integration with our personal lives and have done so for a while now.

While indeed there are many businesses with amazing leaders and inspiring cultures that are meeting the needs of their employees, there are however, many more who are not. We need to change the way we view business and the humans within these structures or it will be to the detriment of the wellbeing and mental health of human beings both within the organisation and within our community.

Organisations are complex living systems and the people within these systems are all interdependent. We are all wirelessly connected and our behaviour, emotions and attitudes are contagious, affecting everyone around us, especially the ones we work with day in and day out. 

Workplaces are also spectacular environments in which to grow, find purpose, joy, connection and belonging. It is also an amazing place to heal and learn, whereby the relationships with those around us can act as a mirror, showing us the parts of ourselves we need to work on and the parts within us that we have denied. All of this happening in our place of work!

Business Wisdom From a Century Ago

Interestingly, 100 years ago we had a pioneer in management theory who was way ahead of her time and understood that we needed more human and more connection at work even back then.

Mary Parker Follet, often called the ‘prophet of management’, spoke about awakening the heart and soul at work and the importance of having a more humanistic approach to leadership and management principles that primarily involved connection and community. 

Follet also openly discussed the importance of spirituality in the workplace which she stated can facilitate the release of our full potential by understanding our connectedness to one another. This realization leads to the acceptance that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves, which in turn Follet states, benefits both the individual and the organisation and I would go further to say our communities and families as well.

Where to Now?

If you are in the sacred and influential space of leadership, simply start with curiosity. Allow yourself some time to reflect and put aside your current way of ‘how things have always been done around here’, and instead ask yourself how you could begin to look at your culture and people differently. How do you want your people to feel at work and what might that look like?

And if you find that tricky….you can simply ask your people what matters to them.  

Unless you are consistently tracking employee engagement, I can guarantee you that your perception of your people and culture is not the same as what your employees are feeling and thinking….from my experience anyway. Even a married couple in a close relationship for years can never really know what the other is thinking or feeling.

It may sound like a tall order but it is not rocket science. We simply need to make it ok to bring more of the human side to work, understand what specific ingredients make humans happy at work as well as striving for growth and profit as a business. 

Now more than ever, our basic human need for belonging and connection is crucial to our wellbeing and happiness, with loneliness becoming an epidemic. Now more than ever we are not happy to simply be paid in exchange for our work, our work and workplace need to be so much more than that. 

We are all human and we all want to know that we matter….that what we do matters. 

As a leader you have the opportunity to create something special with your culture…a culture to be proud of. A place your people want to show up to everyday.

The ball is in your court…….

Join the workplace revolution

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