Human Connection: the Foundation for a 21st Century Workplace

“Good riddance 2017” seems to be a global consensus. Not only will we not miss you, we’re hoping you were a mistake that can be corrected with enough time and common sense. Titans fell last year, while others unexpectedly rose.  Decades old unions continued to unravel; trucks became a familiar weapon of human destruction.  Talk of apocalypse feels too Hollywood, too exaggerated, and yet for many 2017 brought with it so many Unthinkables that many of us started to wonder if standards of reason, merit or basic human care would ever recover.

So what exactly happened in 2017? Not in headlines, but as humans? What made this past year feel so uniquely – so overwhelmingly– disgraceful?

We lost our sense of connection.  More than that – we felt so profoundly disconnected.  Red vs blue.  Coastal elite vs forgotten small towner.  Christian vs Muslim.  Immigrant versus resident.  Black vs white.  Male vs female.

How many more divisions can you add to this list?  And how about from your workplace?  C-suite versus staff.  Finance versus creatives.  Millennials versus um…everyone older than them.

Driven by Separation

Our differences didn’t just define us in 2017; they drove us.  Gathering steam through a fierce – and often necessary — sense of self-interest and self-righteousness.  One that can feel profoundly isolating.

Of course our isolation began long before 2017.  For well over a decade, technology has been drawing us to our own screens, then social media wrapped us up in our own opinions, beliefs and experiences. Along the way we’ve started to physically withdraw too. Going to movies has given way to subscribing to Netflix.  Conversations to messages.  Writing to typing.  Shaking hands to bumping fists.

We’re hunkering down in our own carefully curated worlds.   Where emotions have been reduced to emojis.  Where reactions have become substitutes for engagement.    In other words, we’ve retreated from the front lines of that messy, rich, wonderful, difficult thing called human connection.

And our broader world is a reflection of that.  So if we want 2018 to somehow heal us, we cannot wait for an investigation or an election, a referendum or a revolution.  We have to start connecting again – one human to another.  Even if that other human doesn’t resemble us in temperament, appearance or belief.

Back to Ancient Wisdom

We have to do so by reviving the ancient arts of conversation and storytelling – the building blocks of human engagement that have been sacrificed in favor of high volumes and speed of communication.  And then we need to invest in the quality of that connection: replacing certainty with curiosity, opinions with questions.

And we must do so with integrity.  Not to compromise ourselves, to belittle our interests or to retreat from our principles.  But because we know that these connections make us stronger not weaker; that we give nothing away when we reach out.

In this world of #metoo, can we still make space for #me + you?  We think we can; we must.  If there is to be any hope for “Us”.  And we think the workplace is where we start.

–Written by Jillian Reilly

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  1. […] is why we talk about human connection as the foundation of a 21st century workplace. Because that human connection is the ingredient that […]