Begging to Belong?
Why do we all seem to be begging to belong today?
Kids beg for iPhones. Connecting via text is still connecting. Just ask anyone.
Striking a balance between being alone and being part of a group—a team, a club, or an organization—seems to be the seesaw of life.
Rollo May once wrote, "Loneliness is such an omnipotent and painful threat to many persons that they have little conception of the positive values of solitude, and even at times are frightened by the prospect of being alone." So, we race to belong.
May began speaking of the paradoxes of being human nearly 60 years ago, yet his words seem to ring even more true today at a time when we need them most.
Just the other day I was speaking with a group of clients about cultural intelligence and its role in building collaborative and happy work places that house our true selves. After about five minutes, the chief executive officer and the vice president began arguing about what is better: a cubed off environment or an open workspace?
You see, the "air pollution" of open workspaces seems to create cultural conundrums: people oversee, overspeak and overhear, which leads to cultural misfiring much like a lawn mower engine with the wrong mix of gasoline and oil. "It just doesn’t sound right," one of the executives said.
You see, we are all Abraham Maslow-ing these days. We yearn to belong and connect. Connecting with authenticity can be expressed in this emotional equation:
AUTHENTIC BELONGING= SELF-AWARENESS x COURAGE TO DISCONNECT
I have also witnessed client organizations hold onto people and people hold onto organizations with which they are not compatibly paired. Have you ever witnessed or been that employee that didn’t "fit?" I think I have.
My point is that COURAGE MATTERS NOW more than ever. Knowing how to trust your gut and pulling yourself from the fray or faking it is a difference-maker for humans. Nobody said it was easy to do.
Courage is not really required for connecting. We nearly automatically do it. And today the means of connecting seem to have multiplied. But courage is required for disconnecting.
Disconnecting means you are choosing to be elsewhere, pushing against belonging to the now group because of the promise of more ease and grace in belonging to the new group.
Professional identity was a term coined in 1978 by Edgar H. Schein. He was a progressive thinker. But what we have not witnessed since is progressive thinking as to how humans can co-exist with so many required identities today.
I suspect the struggle to be "you" at work will not fade from the organizational science and systems literature anytime soon.
"Begging" may be a strong word, but it aptly describes what we are wishing for—authentic connections with other philosophically-charged folks. There is a worthwhile difference in what you are begging for so take note.
In the end, when our consciousness elevates, the begging fades and our alignment with work and home unfolds properly. It marks moments to come where worthwhile memories are bound to be made.
The next time you witness someone begging, slow that person down. With the consciousness button pressed, the knowing deepens and the courage connects to the right group, the proper placement of a person where he or she can light up their gifts rather than dim their chances in contributing.