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Do Your People Feel Like They Belong?

Uncategorized Apr 07, 2017

According to Culture Amp, there is one single factor that consistently ties to an employee’s “commitment, motivation, pride, and recommendation—a sense of belonging”.  They surveyed over 7000 people in 35 companies, and belonging was their one consistent finding.

Many of you might be asking yourself what that even means.  This is work, for heaven’s sake, not extended family!

Right. However, why would a talented person want to spend a great deal of their lives in a place they don’t feel they belong? Why wouldn’t they just pick up their skills, education and experience and offer them to another company where they:

  • Love to come to work every day
  • They feel respected and appreciated
  • They have trusted relationships with the people they work with
  • Their input and suggestions are listened to and deeply considered?

No one wants to spend their days looking over their shoulder waiting to get thrown under a bus. Or being gossiped about by their co-workers. Or not even clear about what it is they are trying to accomplish.  Or even worse, bullied and called names by an insensitive or cruel supervisor.

Belonging means that you feel comfortable, appreciated, trusted (and you trust others), and able to be vulnerable without feeling frightened about being made fun of or shamed. This can be even more of a challenge if you are from a different race, culture, or gender from the rest of the team.

Are you creating that kind of an environment among your team? Because it is so important, you don’t want to leave it to chance. As the leader, it is up to you to thoughtfully and intentionally create a high level of trust and understanding and support among your folks.

How to do this?

  1. Know each person on your team as a person AND an employee. Understand their lives, their stresses, and what they enjoy. Appreciate and ask about their hobbies, interests and talents.
  2. Create formal and informal situations when your team members interact with each other. Drinks after work, pot lucks, and celebrating holidays all provide chances for people to get to know each other as people rather than just co-workers. Volunteer together. Learn new things together as a team.
  3. Make sure that different people get chances to work on projects with each other so they learn each other’s strengths.
  4. As the leader, focus on people’s strengths rather than weaknesses. Research shows that it takes five positive interactions to balance out one negative interaction. Another study found that when supervisors focus on strengths their employees were SIX times more engaged.
  5. Make sure meetings of the team are run well, that people have a chance to speak up, and that people don’t get pounced upon, ignored, or treated badly.
  6. Watch carefully the interactions between your team members. Set an expectation of respect and acceptance, and nip gossip and arguments in the bud.

You may have team members who don’t see eye to eye, or simply don’t like each other. It is on you, as the leader, to make sure the workplace is safe and accepting. Expect that people encourage a sense of belonging. But no doubt about it—you set the tone. Make it a good one.

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