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Being Human at Work

Humanity in the workplace starts with YOU

You can tell if humanity is at work by looking at the quality and depth of workplace relationships.

We realized the significance of this while working with a team of thirty directors and their boss. At the end of our first day together, we led an evening exercise on vulnerability. Each person was asked to come prepared to talk about a personal quality that was both a positive and a negative, and to share something that was going on in their lives that the rest of the group might not know about. There were these two guys, both brilliant engineers, close in age and from similar cultural backgrounds. It was evident from their interactions that they were each other’s nemeses as well as each other’s biggest fans. These two men had spent long nights together trying to solve some of the biggest technology challenges facing the organization, at times even staying overnight and sleeping underneath their desks to deliver on a product deadline.

One of them, we will call him Jonah, started his story by describing his background, his marriage and the birth of his beloved daughter. He and his wife began noticing their daughter, who was four years old, had a cold that just would not go away. As he was talking, the room got quieter and quieter. His colleague, we will call him Nik, leaned in a little closer. Jonah shared that after seeing a multitude of doctors and specialists, their little girl had been diagnosed with leukemia. They did not know what the outcome would be. And that is where his story ended for that evening. As he concluded, you could have heard a pin drop in the room. Soon it was time for a break. Nik approached Jonah and hugged him, saying, “I had no idea you were dealing with this. I am so sorry.” The two left the room deep in conversation.

In that moment, the purpose of HumanityWorks—our coaching, consulting and training organization—crystalized. We saw it so clearly. Something is terribly wrong with our work relationships if people are literally sleeping on the floor next to their colleagues and have no idea what is happening for them as human beings. Think about your work relationships. What can YOU do to bring more humanity to work?