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Enabling teams to work better together

The impact of ‘belonging’ on your bottom line.

A sad egg is not a bad egg - why belonging at work matters

Have you ever felt you just didn’t belong on a team?

Like you never got the memos…or understood the jokes…or read between the lines of the unwritten ground rules?


A sense of belonging is a fundamental human need. Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid?

IRI Consultants’ Director of Business Development Jennifer Orechwa says,

“Belonging is right in the middle of Maslow’s list. Belonging is a powerful human need that drives behaviors, leading people to form connections with friends and co-workers. Belonging in the workplace means feeling valued through positive connections with others and able to bring the authentic self to work. People are always looking to develop a sense of connection in their personal and work lives because that is how they validate their feelings and fulfill the need of belonging.”

It’s a pretty important need to be met when so many hours of a day, your week and the year are spent together.

Especially if your self-identity is tied to your job, how you define yourself, why you get out of bed every day.

And if you moved far away from family and existing support networks to make money and your career dreams come true.

It’s not like you all have to be friends, but it helps a lot if you feel recognised for the unique value you bring and you can understand the nuanced language.

And you shouldn’t have to modify your behaviour and views to the point of discomfort or diminished self-esteem.

What is belonging and why does it matter so much?

Workplace belonging, according to QUT psychology researchers Wendall Cockshaw and Ian Shochet, is about how much a person feels accepted, respected, included and supported in an organisation.

Great Places to Work research revealed that employees who feel a sense of belonging at work are:

  • 3 x more likely to look forward to being at work
  • 3 x more likely to say their workplace is fun
  • 9 x more likely to feel treated fairly regardless of their race
  • 5 x more likely to want to stay

Belonging is confidence to share the aspects of your authentic self that you want to.

And yet, Better Up’s Value of Belonging at Work study found that 25% of employees feel they don’t belong at their workplace.

Belonging is about whether people want to stay on the team or if they feel alien, rejected, or isolated and want to leave. So they do.

And then you have recruitment and retention distractions.

How will you fill the vacancy and keep current productive people longer?

Employers of people who experience belonging at work have a 50% lower turnover risk.

What would that mean for your HR budget?

Rejection is the antithesis of belonging. University of Michigan neuroscience studies found that the brain processes rejection like it does physical pain.

What’s mental health recovery costing your team or company?

Tony Bond, executive vice president, chief diversity and innovation officer at Great Place to Work, describes belonging as “an accumulation of day-to-day experiences that enables a person to feel safe.”

And Harvard Business School researchers believe belonging is critical for psychological safety, which improves team dynamics, decision-making, innovation and creativity.

Can you afford not to consider the impact of belonging on your bottom line?

How can you tell if a team member feels like they don’t belong?

If your people are not telling you directly how much or how little they feel they belong, a sense of NOT belonging can look, sound and feel like this:

  • Empty chairs – they don’t attend meetings or other activities
  • When they do, they don’t say much and avoid eye-contact
  • Low productive output, delays and missed deadlines
  • Avoidance of collaborative tasks
  • Starting early and leaving late to avoid all the greetings and goodbyes and having to walk with others to get away
  • Audible sighing in response to requests, directions, and ideas
  • Always questioning the purpose of ideas or actions – trying to figure out if the ‘why’ matches their own sense of what’s important

And this:

  • Bugging you for feedback constantly (to check if they are on par with peers and have your approval)
  • Overpleasing, overstepping and overdoing so they are obvious and not as invisible or insignificant as they feel
  • Copying the exact habits and choices of coworkers, and discarding their individuality in a desperate bid to ‘fit in’ or ‘blend in’ (sometimes to the point of creepiness)

Hult Ashridge Executive Education found a sense of not belonging at work is:

“about feeling ‘different’ to others, lacking commonality with colleagues and feeling that we are not adding value in our roles and in our teams. When these factors collide in organisational cultures, which are hierarchical, political, and lacking in trust and psychological safety, they can become magnified and people struggle to know how to deal with them.”

How do you help team members feel like they belong?

One of the reasons I love delivering the True Colors program for teams is because it’s all about creating unity from valuing differences.

Each workshop allows participants to explore and share what matters to them at work, to articulate their values, joys, strengths, stressors and needs to help bring out their best selves.

When we recognise the different values, joys, strengths, stressors and needs that matter to the people we work with, we can self-moderate our responses to their behaviours.

That’s the key to true self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

And a sense of belonging.

If you’d like your team to build a true sense of belonging, let’s talk about a True Colors workshop to get started. Tap the button below to book a complimentary and unconditional Tell Me More call.

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