WorkHuman is not just a catch phrase. It’s a deeply personal concept that has impacted me for most of my life as I witnessed the impact a toxic culture had on my entire family.
It was dinnertime many years ago. My three sisters and I sat at the kitchen table along with my mother. I had Girl Scouts at 7 p.m., and my other sister had swim team at 7:30 p.m. Getting us all fed at 6 p.m. was important for the evening to go smoothly. My mother sat down with us, but we knew that as soon as my father came home, my mother would probably become distracted and get up from the dinner table.
About 10 minutes into dinner, my father came home pale white, shaking, with his head held low. My mother immediately got up from the table, started to speak to him in a loving way, telling him it was OK and that we all loved him very much. They went into the family room where my mother spent at least 30 minutes soothing my father. This ritual went on almost nightly for most of my childhood.
My father worked in a culture that was anything but human. Although he was a senior engineer, he was treated as if he were nothing. His manager berated him daily, even though he was an excellent, highly educated worker with more than 30 patents hanging on his wall at home. However, due to the toxic work culture, leaders had to have a sense of power and control and made their employees feel small, devalued, and unworthy.
Each day when my father went to work, he worried about being laid off. He had a family of six to provide for. He worked at this organization until he was “offered” an early retirement package. It was only after he retired that he began to feel valued and respected when his former customers started to hire him as a strategy consultant.
It didn’t have to play out this way. If my father’s organization understood the value of a healthy culture, he may have retired there because he would have felt a sense of belonging, value and worthiness. Bad managers would have been “weeded out” and he would have given more of his true brilliant self and discretionary effort to the company.
One of the core organizational values I’ve believed in throughout my career is the power of a manager who is collaborative, asks lots of good questions, and values my strengths. In other words, a manager who is a coach. I do my best work when my manager sees me as a partner where we can check in on a frequent basis, collaborate, brainstorm, and look at missteps as learning experiences. When my manager is a coach with whom I have regular check-ins and feedback to ensure alignment, it builds a sense of belonging, community, and a culture of positivity.
When organizations do not work human, they impact not only the productivity of people like my father, but also their families. Twenty-five years later, my sisters and I continue to talk about the days at the dinner table when dad would come home upset. I talk about it with my children and how I want to make sure they never settle for employment at a company that neither values nor respects its employees.
I have spent my entire career looking for an organization that understands how critical it is to treat employees as people. I was searching for an organization that embraces people bringing their whole selves to work and values the whole person. When organizations and leaders do not value or respect their employees, those employees do not do their best work. Employees will also carry this negativity home with them, impacting their children and their children’s children.
When I found Globoforce and its WorkHuman movement, I found my tribe. I found the place where I can help organizations become more positive and value their employees. I have a VP with whom I can brainstorm about the work in front of us and process improvements. I have an EVP with whom I can walk into his office at any time and brainstorm at a strategic and tactical level the current challenges I am facing in my latest project.
Both my VP and EVP are true coaches who ask open questions, leverage my strengths, and call me out when I make a mistake and collaborate with me on how to learn from the mistake. I work in a culture of continuous feedback where people are open, honest, yet appreciative when they give feedback to one another. Feedback is a challenging concept, yet at Globoforce, we strike the right balance of both positive and constructive feedback for development and learning.
I only wish that my father had a work environment like Globoforce. It would have impacted his life in such a profound way and the lives of his wife and four children as well.
At Globoforce, I work on building software that evolves cultures to ones that value the good in people, including their intuition, emotion, and imagination through recognition, feedback, ongoing check-ins, and helping managers learn how to coach employees. I found a place where I can help people feel important and respected. I found a place that helps mothers and fathers come home each night ready to focus on their family, after a meaningful day at work.
As Tim Leberecht so eloquently states, “we will only thrive if we keep investing in what makes us inherently human: vulnerability, empathy, intuition, emotion, and imagination. We are human because we suffer because we can feel – and feel for others. We are human because we can dream.”