No Sense of Belonging? Focus on Building Community in the Workplace
There’s a huge chasm between being assigned to work together as a team and having a sense of belonging that comes from building Community in the workplace. Case in point, there was a team I had been hired to coach and right away I noticed there were a few team members that felt it was enough to show up, compare notes, and call it good. Sound familiar?
Together we began building a Community of Practice for this team — a group of people who share a common concern and are committed to working together. Even the team members who initially were hesitant about leaving the sidelines began to see that they had been vastly missing out and, in essence, robbing themselves and their coworkers of something extremely valuable — Community!
Even if your job seems mundane, your attitude and behavior at work determines, in part, how physically and emotionally healthy you are. It’s possible to do nitty gritty work and still have a sense of fulfillment, satisfaction, and belonging that elevates WORK to COMMUNITY. Let’s see how that happens.
Why building Community in the workplace gives you a needed sense of belonging
Our social health is a vital aspect of our overall health. We all need to belong. Our identity is formed in relation to the people surrounding us. We draw our strength from our Community, whether in the family, neighborhood or at the workplace. If we go it alone we’ll experience…
- Higher rates of anxiety, depression, and loneliness
- Lower self-esteem, empathy, and trust of others
- Increased blood pressure, cortisol, inflammation, heart disease, and cognitive decline
- Compromised immune function and poor sleep
Being part of a Community makes you feel more secure, nurtured, and supported. It sparks creativity and innovation through collaboration. As you learn from each other, you increase your skills and capabilities, thereby giving your confidence a boost.
How to know if you’re “in a community” or just a team that’s stuck together
If you’re a member of a team, yet you’re not sure you’re really a part of a community, ask yourself…
- Am I part of a group, team, or organization where we have high trust and respect, collaboration, effective communication, and equity?
- When conflict arises, does my community stick together as we work toward a healthy outcome?
- Do I feel right at home in the group or with team members?
- Do I feel connected even in the smallest way to my team members?
- When I work collaboratively, are we elevating each other‘s work, are we helping each other grow, does my work improve because of my collaboration with my team members?
- Am I complementing — making complete — my community, i.e. without me is the team lacking a vital element?
Many times, a Community of Practice needs a little help to get to that place of connectedness, to that feeling of belonging on their team. Perhaps isolation during the pandemic has made your social skills atrophy a bit. Even under these circumstances, a community can be formed. Be assured, while it takes effort in the beginning, the results are well worth it.
If you’re not feeling a sense of belonging in the workplace, don’t despair. Take the initiative to connect in some way with each member of your team. Focus on connecting with the friendliest person first, then letting that relationship carry you further into the group. Let relationships form naturally, as you work together on your project. Use this commonality to build and find more commonalities. And it doesn’t hurt to grab dinner with your co-workers to celebrate the completion of a project.
One important thing to be mindful of…building community in the workplace is not about becoming the most popular person and shining the light on you. Your goal is to sincerely connect with and support each person individually.
Finding your sense of belonging makes a huge difference. If that’s lacking in your place of work or organization, I’d love to help you get to that place with your team. Guaranteed — when you get there, to that place and that sense of belonging, your team will begin to accelerate its output and learning. The work becomes more joyful, more meaningful, and filled with purpose. All these things come together when you can really develop the community component of a Community of Practice.
If you’re not quite to that place yet, I invite you to sign up for my email series, Social Learning Spaces for Teams. It’s just a taste of the upcoming Masterclass I’m preparing for you.