How you show up in the world matters. You can go along to get along.
You can have a public persona or a mask you work from. If your mask spoke, you might hear: “Don’t make anyone uncomfortable” or “Never let ’em see you sweat,” or “A good offense is better than a good defense.”
Relationships with people are one thing. Relationships with peoples’ humanity is another thing altogether. I draw this contrast between relationships with people and relationships with people’s humanity because the humanity part is a nuance for me.
You see the humanity part when someone flips out when cut off by another driver, or when a customer growls because the barista gets the coffee order wrong. The humanity part is when someone is disappointed because a beloved other doesn’t call.
The humanity part shows up at work when an employee:
- Is disappointed because the promotion didn’t come through.
- Doesn’t have the resources to get the job done properly.
- Is confused because the boss keeps moving the goal line.
- Disagrees with this year’s performance appraisal.
- Ends up without a chair in the latest game of musical chairs, and didn’t see it coming.
Some of us are not well positioned to deal with people’s humanity simply because we can’t face our own. We stuff it down with food, drink, sleeping, TV, Internet, gaming or other distractions. If I can’t face my own pain, how can I possibly witness yours?
“When I know myself deeply – deeply enough to know the human experience – I can be truly compassionate.”
If organizations are to thrive, managers are going to have to take seriously their own health and face their own demons, in order to learn to truly lead others. No more big chinks in the armor.
Because that’s what’s going on, you know. I almost wrote, “that’s all that’s going on,” as if managing gremlins like self-doubt, overwhelm, or a hair-trigger temper are simple things to resolve. They do inhibit our ability to lead effectively, and humanly.
What Would It Take To Create A More Human Workplace?
This does not mean we hold hands and sing summer camp songs, or that you need to become a therapist. It means that we are adults at play at work. We all get to use what we are good at. We work through conflicts in a healthy way. Conflict is inevitable and good for challenging the status quo.
We acknowledge the ways in which each person is different and respect those differences. Catch yourself when you want to judge, keep secrets, force conformity, manipulate, or look away from another’s humanity.
Instead, use differences, disagreement, and compassion for each other’s humanity in the organization’s best interest.
A version of this post originally ran on Lead Change Group blog August 6, 2015. (Here, Aug 9, 2017)
Image: Wavebreak Media Ltd, BigStockphoto