Being Human: A Team Sport 

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By Katie Cronin

The significance of fulfilling relationships in our professional lives is often overlooked despite the notion that connectedness with colleagues is closely linked to success at work and job satisfaction. 

Baumeister and Leary’s ‘Need to Belong’ theory posits that the desire for belongingness is a fundamental driver for most human behaviours, including the pursuit of love, friendship and achievement.  Building strong connections with those that we spend a significant proportion of our lives with, is an essential aspect of effective professional practice.  When people feel connected to their co-workers they are more likely to experience a sense of belonging and purpose within their professional environment.  To feel that you are part of something greater than yourself alone, can instil a belief that you are making meaningful difference in your work, a highly rewarding and motivating factor to consider.   

Even the most introverted of us still need elements of human connection in our lives, our brains are wired to connect to others. Indeed, Abraham Maslow in his Hierarchy of Needs identifies the need for belonging as the third most crucial human need behind physiological and safety needs.  Relationships such as those formed within our professional lives, are known to be even more meaningful when they are made within stressful situations, something I’m sure we can all relate to in our own professional journeys. 

Yet even those of us with a strong, secure sense of ‘who we are’ can struggle under the pressure of having to conform.  When differences in values occur in professional practice, challenges can present with individuals either choosing to ‘swim against the tide’ to maintain their authenticity or feeling compelled to conform or ‘pretend’ to be someone they are not, leading to stress and a sense of inauthenticity.  Each decision has its own potential consequences or trade-offs. 

So what are the barriers to achieving a professional setting where belonging is achieved through the acceptance of others?  Perhaps it is the importance of the supportive environment within which we work. One that values the diversity of all its team members, appreciating the differences in our backgrounds, knowledge, skills and beliefs, and one that promotes a curiosity in each other, to really understand the person behind the professional.   

But also acknowledging that we are all essentially looking for the same thing, acceptance and understanding.

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