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  • Rich Haglund

Is it OK to see your colleagues "deeply?"

When we moved to Nashville from the California Bay Area 20 years ago, my wife was taken aback by her new coworkers asking her if she'd already found "a church home." As we walked together one evening, my wife asked, "Can we talk about that at work?"


As a lawyer, I understand how well-meaning laws sometimes prompt overreactions that aren't helpful. Laws prohibiting discrimination in employment because of religion may lead some people to think you can't even talk about religion at work. Laws prohibiting discrimination in hiring based on pregnancy or age may discourage potential employers from getting to know candidates by asking about their families - even when candidates bring up the subject themselves. And, especially for managers, it isn't unreasonable to hesitate to ask a lot of questions about our team members' lives outside of work.


Work is a part of life. It isn't life. Work can support our lives with income, and, in some cases, our jobs may tap into a particular passion we have. But, we are first and foremost, social human beings, with a deep desire to be known and belong. If we're not nurturing those desires in our workplaces, we'll never approach the potential for excellence and impact that exists in our teams.


I previously shared the three things that Patrick Lencioni says all employees need to feel engaged: to be known as human beings, to know how their work is relevant to someone, and a way to know if they're succeeding. A recent talk by New York Times columnist David Brooks reminded me of the first: to be known as human beings. He talked about community being formed when people connect, when they see others deeply. Here's an excerpt from the talk where he explains what he means:


So, what are you doing, personally, to create community in your workplace? What is your company doing as a matter of habit?

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