THE HUMAN FACTOR AT WORK
by Greg Fall (excerpted from late 2010 white paper)
In the modern workplace there is less and less room for connecting with our inner humanness, that compassionate core or soul that defines our very essence. The corporate wheel keeps spinning ever faster and, unable to manufacture more time or energy, we are often left emotionally and mentally exhausted, with little net capacity for staying in touch with our compassionate cores. In order to be more customer centric, improve ROI, gain market share, and meet other mission critical metrics, we are called upon, moment by moment, to maintain laser focus on the externals in our environment. But what about the internals?
Thinking v. Feeling
In our jobs, we are trained to value: technical skills over people skills, accomplishments over processes, objectivity and fact over subjectivity and values, the analytical over the empathetic, credibility over authenticity, and thinking over feeling. We are trained to de-humanize ourselves and others through many aspects of workplace culture. We are taught to fear the repercussions of showing our compassion, our feelings, our values. Over many years, some of us may even lose touch with our inner humanness.
Yet, connecting with our own humanness at work allows for: feeling more fulfilled, sustaining greater effort, growing relationships, feeling physically healthier/less stress, fostering teamwork, and boosting emotional IQ capacity to work through human problems, among other benefits. Keeping humanness in the workplace translates into real ROP (return-on-people). It just makes sense.
Who is at Risk?
It is easy to contemplate how senior executives, highly technical employees, or other groups might be at higher risk of losing touch with their humanness at work; the very nature of their positions and / or accompanying stress may prevail to block them from behaving more authentically, more compassionately. But they are not alone. Even human resource professionals can find themselves working under demands which don’t seem to allow room for emotional self-reflection and practicing their own humanness. So … who is at risk? Just about everyone, really.
The Paradox of “Professional” Behavior
Of course, some workplace cultures are just plain toxic, allowing verbal abuse, bullying, or “you-can-always-leave” attitudes to dominate. But most organizations today give more deference to the importance of employee satisfaction and respecting others. After all, they want to avoid consequences related to legal or morale issues. So, they put in place written and unwritten guidelines to clearly define acceptable “professional” behavior and expectations. Unfortunately, these very expectations and behavioral norms may also have the unintended consequence of limiting expressions of individual humanness. I do not call for eliminating these behavioral norms, just for allowing in the human factor: a balanced approach.
Ask yourself these questions:
•Is your organization’s culture in balance? •Are you in balance? •Do you take time each day to practice your own brand of humanness? •Is this a priority for you and your peers? •Have you deliberately nourished your own humanness today?
Getting in Touch with Your Own Humanness
What behaviors help someone get more in touch with their own humanness? Well, it might be slightly different for each person, but a few common types of behavior are:
•Showing kindness. •Actively listening to someone in a caring way. •Writing about your feelings. •Being authentic. •Genuinely complimenting another person. •Telling someone you appreciate/value them – not for their performance – just for themselves. •Allowing yourself to feel. •Joining in a non-profit activity. •Sharing your feelings with someone “safe”. •Showing empathy toward another. •Performing an unselfish act. •Practicing forgiveness (of yourself and of others).
As a Coach, I can see the Difference!
In my own executive coaching and consulting practice, I often work with clients who are out of balance due to a lack of connectedness with their own compassionate cores. When these individuals truly commit to changing their behaviors in ways which nourish their own and other’s humanness, productivity can soar.
We are all responsible for our own physical, mental, and emotional health. We also have the power of choosing our own behaviors. If you find yourself out of balance due to having lost touch with your own humanness, try this simple exercise:
Name one aspect of your own humanness or authenticity which you are fearful of showing in the workplace.
Name other environments in which you do feel “safe” in showing that portion of your humanness which you named above (perhaps in past workplaces, among friends, at home?).
Talk with someone you trust about your answers to Step I and Step II and, if you feel comfortable, strategize with them on ways to become more aware of and connected to your inner humanness. Write down the results of your conversation for further reflection.
A few sample questions you might consider for discussion include:
•What are “safe” ways I could show my humanness at work and encourage others to do the same? •Who are people at work and outside of work with whom I feel “safe” in showing my humanness? •As I plan my career development, are there other professions, organizations, and/or industries which would be more accepting or even encouraging of employees showing their humanness? •What are some additional resources which would help me reflect further on this topic?
Write down one action that you will commit to doing during the next few days which will help you to be less fearful and to feel more of your own humanness, either inside or outside of the workplace.