Building Safety (Part 2): Do I Belong Here?

As a business coach in The Woodlands, I am always struck by the great sense of belonging that this community generates. It is welcoming but not overly so. People there have to get to know you. Yet, there is something special about The Woodlands. And the people who live there are proud to be part of this vibrant community.

All of us want to belong. As human beings one of our primal instincts is to look for belonging cues. And, like The Woodlands, we want to belong to something bigger than ourselves. Belonging is about connection. Very often, one of the challenges I work with as a personal business coach in companies is with the culture and creating a greater sense of belonging.

There are companies who want their employees to feel like family. That sounds good. And when applied correctly it is great. People feel safe. When applied incorrectly it can bring a sense of separation, anxiety and feeling isolated. People will feel that they are in danger.

I had a client who ran his business like his personal family. He tolerated outbursts of anger, broken promises, missed deadlines and he had family favorites. For all the belonging cues he wanted to generate he failed as he let “his” family philosophy tear his company apart.

On the other side I collaborated with a company that created a sense of family, a wonderful sense of inclusion. It worked. What was the difference?

In the first company, accountability was subjective, selective and ultimately, because it was not consistent, ineffective. People could not count on or trust each other to get the work done right and on time. When disconnectors, which is what this type of behavior does, is allowed to proliferate, no one feels safe in getting their job done, there is little trust and whatever greater purpose they were working for as a team is destroyed. The employees were being included in a family that was toxic.

The second company ran things quite differently. It was a safe environment because everyone was held accountable. There was a sense of belonging because people felt safe because they could trust their teammates to do their work on time and correctly.

The idea of “family” inspires the idea of togetherness. Yet, you can be in a dysfunctional family where you are together physically but disconnected mentally and physically. This is not a place where you can pursue your self-improvement.

When there is accountability, collaboration and achievement of common goals at expected levels and in a timely manner, the bonding that takes place between individuals in the company serves as the foundation for greater growth, productivity and happiness.

Why? The social support network, you create at work, your family, is the primary driver of workers’ happiness and productivity. And, the studies on happiness and work back this conclusion.

Most of us have experienced the good and the bad “family” work environment. To answer the question: “Do I belong here?” Ask yourself the following questions:

What is this job doing for me?
What is it doing to me?
What does it have me becoming?
Is that acceptable?

If you like your answers stay. And, if you don’t and that you don’t feel safe. This is your cue to move on because you don’t belong and it is time to move on.