[See video above or elaborated text version here.] I’ve been receiving a series of emails lately from a highly regarded organization with the subject line “How to Be Human at Work.”
My first thought… “Funny. Aren’t we being human all the time?”
Now for most of us, it’s not that we’re being inhuman at work but I understand the point.
Bringing more humanity to the workplace is trending. Trends come and go, but this part will never go away. The core of how things get done at work is through human beings.
The great news is that we’re remembering that those people who happen to be employees are human, and there’s power in making the most of what it means to be human at work.
If this light the email subject line How to Be Human at Work is perfect. How do we be (more) human at work?
What it doesn’t mean.
Some think being human at work involves oversharing. Or awkward team-building activities. Nah. Let’s not go there. Let’s go here.
What if it’s about normalizing real human experiences in work-appropriate ways?
How about addressing the real human needs to be seen and to belong? Or the need to make a meaningful contribution? What then could we accomplish?
Humanity at work. This means you.
Let’s revisit that email subject line, “How to Be Human at Work.” That’s about us.
Being human at work is not just about treating others like human beings. Are we behaving like human beings? Do our actions reflect those of human beings? What does that even mean?
People ask me for the steps for an organizational development intervention to make their work cultures more human. Fair question. I like to start with what we know we can influence – ourselves.
How to be human at work.
Are you ready to take the challenge of connecting with your own humanity? Let this be about you and behaving like a human being in the context of work. It might look like this:
- Acknowledging behavior that bugs you. (When I was still in my corporate job I asked a man I worked with if he was okay that his colleagues teased him publicly about his appearance. He pooh-poohed it. No big deal, he said. A year later he showed up in my office ready to address it.)
- Being persistent when you’re not heard. Find someone who will listen.
- Fostering better interactions with a key co-worker when you notice your dislike for them creates more work for everyone.
- Being willing to say no. This can be done artfully.
- Making the time to encourage another when you know they’re struggling. It doesn’t have to take long.
- Asking others you trust what they like about working with you.
- Investigating your assumptions when you find yourself making up stories about someone’s behavior. (Again during my corporate stint, two women shared some significant negative feedback with me. Despite a rough start, I appreciated they had come straight to me. By the end of the discussion we had grown our relationships.)
With some of these suggestions, I get questions about how things could go wrong – particularly about uncomfortable conflict. But you know, we are faced with conflict all the time. And we handle it one way or another.
I know it can also feel vulnerable to admit we feel something personally about another’s actions. I find it easier to deal with conflict or discomfort when I’m coming from what’s real for me. Why not come from your humanity and see how that goes?
Embrace that your human reactions matter and being human at work is worth the effort. When you embody your intention, you express the mindset, the confidence, and the words to get you through with more ease.
We do ourselves a disservice, and the organizations we work with when we do not bring all of ourselves to work. At a minimum, holding back too much wastes energy that could be used more productively.
We already know “how to be human.”
Let’s concede our humanity. It’s key to choose to be conscious of it.
Practice being human at work and sow the seeds of a more human work environment. Truth, direct communication, and genuine curiosity and encouragement set a positive foundation. Your demonstration is a model for others. Start your own trend.
A version of this post originally ran on Lead Change Group blog July 10, 2017. (Here, Sept 12, 2017.)