My Christmas blog post this year is a well overdue one; having checked back on the dates it seems it’s been almost two months since I last blogged. There are no excuses other than the usual ones of there always being something else taking priority. Which is ironic, given what I wanted to write about, ahead of Christmas, is arguably one of the most important things for any of us to remember within our respective workplaces.
As the world of work continues to transform, I sometimes think we are in danger of forgetting what’s really important. We spend millions of pounds every single year on designing workplaces that people want to be in, and which are designed to deliver the maximum benefits of output and productivity. But, in our desire to come up with the next big thing… have we forgotten what really matters?
We’re all people
You see, at the heart of everything our employee experiences are designed to deliver, is humanisation. That’s right. We are having to introduce interventions designed to remind the people within our businesses, that the colleagues they work alongside… are people too.
If that sounds preposterous, it’s not so very hard to see how we’ve got here. As the Personnel function of old transformed into the Stateside branded HR, the focus transferred from tea and tissues to figures and hard facts. An important transition… but one which, in the HR function’s desire to be seen as adding strategic value, has risked us reducing the very real human individuals which make up an organisation, to nothing more than a ‘resource’.
Overriding our instincts
Humans are social animals; we are naturally geared to network and relationship-build. If we think of how this works in our lives away from the office, it’s likely that we approach every new interaction thinking the best of the other person.
You only have to watch how children make friends: actively seeking out others to share toys and play games with. Their base assumption is that the other person will respond with positivity; will have the same or similar shared goals and interests. The same can be true in how we interact as adults: if we meet someone at a party then it’s hard to imagine pulling out a twenty page policy booklet of how we expect them to behave before we’ll consider striking up a conversation. We assume the best. We assume that the person we’re speaking to has our best interests at heart; that actually, is really just the same as us.
So what’s gone wrong at work? Well, it’s quite simply that:we have overridden our natural inclination to think the best of our fellow human beings. Instead, from Day 1, we treat workplace interactions with suspicion.HR departments introduce rafts of policies and procedures, designed to suppress human instincts and control behaviours. Managers treat their employees as children, not as the equals – humans – that they are. Employees distrust their managers, not believing them to have their best interests at heart. Leaders dictate the way forwards, without properly considering others who need to have a voice. And we find ourselves caught in this ever decreasing spiral of suspicion, in a workplace surrounded by fellow human beings… who may in fact ceased to have seem human at all.
Changing the world
And so my plea to everyone reading this: employees, managers, business leaders and HR professionals alike… is to make 2019 the year we change this. To come back to our workplaces, refreshed after the Christmas break, with a very different viewpoint on our colleagues.
In the vast, vast majority of cases, everyone who comes into our organisations each day is trying to do their best. Leaders are trying to run their businesses as well as they possibly can. Managers are doing everything they can to enable employees to do their jobs. Employees want to come to work to do a good job.
Everyone is doing their best. And everyone is human. Which means that sometimes we will mess up. Sometimes we won’t get it quite right.But we are doing our best.
In 2019, therefore, instead of assuming the worst; perhaps we could come to work every day, and think the best of each other.
Because if we did, I think we genuinely might just change the world.
Wishing you all very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.