A corporation is just a piece of paper in a filing cabinet. Anybody can start a corporation for a few bucks. A real organization that works is an organism. All of the parts of the organism are connected — not by rigid and irrelevant reporting relationships but because the organization is powered by trust and interconnected.
In a healthy organization, the buzz of positive energy is palpable. It shines through. Nobody is working just for the paycheck in a healthy organization. Why would they, when it is so much fun to work at a higher level?
When we care just enough about our work and our co-workers to put our job on a higher plane than the transactional “At least it’s a paycheck,” everything gets better. When a team is energized around a goal and the team members trust one another and their leaders, it’s easier to hit goals. The work is more fun. The day goes faster. We spend more of our time in the zone.
We get more out of work and our employer and its shareholders get more out of us. That’s the ideal state for everyone — and for our planet!
A lot of companies are stuck in a mechanical mindset. They may be dimly aware that there are benefits to be had by humanizing their cultures, but they aren’t sure how to begin.
They are learning to soften and be more human, but that can be a slow process. Remember how creaky the Tin Man was when he first felt oil on his rusted joints in The Wizard of Oz? That’s how traditional organizations feel right now. It’s a new day. They need to humanize their cultures to attract and retain great people, but it’s new territory.
Here are 22 easy ways to humanize your workplace. Try some of them right now. Don’t wait for your employer to humanize your culture.
You can lead the charge yourself! You can grow your own muscles and help your co-workers and friends do the same thing. We are all taking charge of our careers now, and humanizing work together.
If you’re not doing it now, practice making eye contact and speaking to your co-workers as you arrive and leave work and as you pass them during the day. Take a second and say “How are you doing?”
When you see someone you’ve seen before at work but you haven’t actually met, stop and extend your hand. Say “I’ve seen you around but we haven’t been introduced. I’m [me]. What’s your name?”
Stop and look at your standard business correspondence. Take a second to add a human touch to your email and voicemail messages. Just a quick personal greeting, thank you or dash of human warmth in a message goes a long way toward building trust and community.
Acknowledge your co-workers, customers and vendors. Take every opportunity to say “Caroline, I want to thank you for being such a great vendor. You make my life so easy.” You don’t need a reason to say “I appreciate you.” Remember that everybody you know is a person first and a working person afterwards.
Acknowledge people when they are down or mojo-depleted. Ask if there’s anything you can do when one of your teammates is overwhelmed.
When you’re working in a group project, take lots of time to make sure everyone is (and feels) heard.
When you have something potentially sticky to share with a colleague or your boss, strategize before you share your question or observation. Think about how your message will be heard, and work to communicate as compassionately as you can. If your teamm ate is missing deadlines, ask them ”How can I help? Should we check in with each other more often, or what other ideas can we brainstorm to stay in sync?”
Organize a lunch-time brown-bag series where employees can share their ideas and expertise on the topics they know best (which could include business, life, travel, sports, music or almost anything) and have lunch with one another.
Grab every opportunity you can to let employees talk together and build community. Every training session is a trust-building opportunity, if it’s led that way. Every meeting can build team spirit, too. Whenever employees are together face or face or virtually, it’s a chance to build relationships.
Get the topic “How are we doing?” on the agenda for every department meeting throughout your company. The state of the team is the most critical unaddressed topic in almost every organization.
When you have the chance, suggest revising your department’s policy manual to make your procedures friendlier and more intuitive. As your culture becomes more human you will begin to eliminate fifty-year-old policies that address employees like wayward children or criminals.
Challenge yourself to take a step out of your comfort zone by sharing your thoughts on a topic that’s important to you. The harder it feels to find your voice, the more points to give yourself!
When you sense that there is a disturbance between you and someone you work with, address the topic gently and directly. You can ask “Elliott, should we talk about the report? I think we got our wires crossed. Maybe we can take a minute and untangle what went wrong.” Keep the conversation blame-free. Is it important for you or Elliott to be declared the winner of the argument? No. Is it important for you and Elliott to reinforce your trust in one another? Yes!
If you’re going to miss a commitment you made to one of your colleagues, say so, and apologize even if whatever held you up is not your fault.
When you are upset or frustrated at work, take a deep breath before you speak — and especially before you fire off an angry email message.
Remember that everybody has a heavy burden to carry. When people are nasty, it means they hurt inside. It has nothing to do with you.
When people pick fights with you at work or try to destroy confidence, it’s because you intimidate them or they see you as a threat. Don’t stoop to engaging in workplace warfare. It’s not important. You don’t have time for grudges or vendettas. You are on your path!
Make a conscious effort to bring a little more of yourself to work every day. It is a practice, like yoga. Notice what you say and how you feel at work. Notice the situations and people that make you tired and anxious versus those that lift you up and make you feel stronger. You deserve to spend more time doing the things that fill your fuel tank than things that deplete it. Listen to your body!
Remember that you are on your path and that everything that happens to you at work is learning you will keep forever — if you can get the learning out of situations you encounter.
Acknowledge yourself for your daily triumphs, many or most of which are neither noticed nor commented on. That’s okay. You can write about your daily triumphs in your journal!
When your work is hard or stressful, picture the novel or the screenplay you will write about your life. This frustrating moment can be a scene in your movie. Who will you cast to play the part of you?
Every day at work, ask yourself “How can I grow my flame today?” Maybe you can do it by helping someone learn a new task. Maybe you’ll do it by acknowledging someone who doesn’t get a lot of praise. What can you do to grow your own mojo and humanize the energy at your workplace today?