To achieve great results at work we need to feel that we belong.
“As members of a social species, we derive strength not from our rugged individualism but from our collective ability to plan, communicate, and work together,” writes author Brené Brown.
Most of us have had at least occasional experiences of disconnection and loneliness outside of work, but how often do we pay attention to the times we—and others—feel disconnected at work? We might feel this sense of detachment during an interaction, at a meeting, on a team or more generally within an organization. This feeling can lead even normally secure people to ask themselves, “What’s wrong with me?” or “Am i good enough for this?” If this sense of disconnection and unease continues, we might develop a shame or disconnection cycle, in which we don’t feel good enough to reach out to others, and we begin to lose our sense of self and what we bring to work, and to the world.
It’s a critical leadership skill to be able to identify a sense of disconnection in both ourselves and in others, and to take steps to connect when we discover a broken thread in the common bonds of our humanity.
If we look inward when we feel disconnected, we can see if our feelings of doubt, vulnerability, or even anger might stem from feeling unheard and unnoticed. If we do feel this way, we can work on connecting with the people around us. Are we holding back rather than reaching out to an individual or group? If we find that we are, we can take steps to connect with others, recognizing our common humanity, and our common need to feel connected. We can share our experience with others, and ask them questions that elicit stories about their lives.
It feels vulnerable to reach out to others when we might be feeling unworthy of connection, so when someone else at work might be feeling “off” or disconnected, it is valuable to check in with them, asking questions and listening to the answers. We can share something we have struggled with or are struggling with now, and maybe they will also be open to sharing. Together we can bring connection to a world in which people increasingly feel disconnected. When we do this we are more likely to accomplish our best work, and thrive.