A deep sense of belonging

kevin.tang - October 28th, 2021

“It is the family that gives us a deep private sense of belonging. Here we first begin to have our self-defined for us”
Howard Thurman

What a powerful quote from Howard Thurman an American author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader and mentor no less to Martin Luther King Jr.

As we celebrate Black History month, UK, Fiona Daniels, radius consultant has written an excellent article representing this year’s theme “Proud to Be”

Family

It is indeed the family where we first have that deep sense of belonging, even if “family” has negative or positive connotation or experience for us. I come from a black family, led by two amazing parents who ensured that all our voices were represented, we knew who we were and that our difference would be the key to unlocking our future pathways. It is through their nurturing, care, guidance, wisdom and so much more that fed my Mind, Body and Spirt to be who I am, to make my choices good or bad, use my voice to state my opinions, ideas and perspectives, champion others, and to be able to love and love others.

Love

I smile at the last part, using the word love, in the world of work it does not and should not factor, right? Wrong…human beings need to love and be loved, and our first experience of love be that self-love, love from a parent, sibling, friends etc starts from the beginning and that’s family, our first social connection.

Love shows itself in many different ways, top two ways for me is, caring and kindness. Two things everyone is capable of but often times left at the front door of work. We only need to look at the present situation to appreciate first-hand the impact of not being able to hug, kiss, connect to loved ones and marry that up to the sharp increase of mental health challenges and issues many of us are facing either directly or indirectly in a myriad of different ways.

The Struggle to Fit

The feeling of belonging stems from the human need to be accepted, be that in a football team, a gang, golf club, team at work, faith group, parents’ group, online communities etc. In some way shape or form we desire to belong and be accepted for who we are. When you are not accepted for you are, it is quite frankly difficult to fit in and feel any sense of belonging. Constantly having the daily micro aggressions, social media abuse and other indignities thrown at you or others like yourself are all messages “you are different, and you do not belong” and it hurts and its tiring carrying such a heavy load all because as in my case I am black, for others being different in various ways. Feeling like you don’t belong in the workplace can be lonely and isolating and with most of us working virtually already feeling disconnected and isolated this can be heightened. The natural thing to do when you don’t fit in, belong or are not accepted for who you are, is to find environments where you are represented, your identity is accepted, your diversity appreciated, and your voice and perspective valued. An environment where you can simply be you without having to compromise on who you are.

Step in Employee Networks

This desire for acceptance and belonging is fundamentally why Employee Networks/Resource Groups are formed. Ironically the first employee network was established in response to the racial tension in the 1960s in the US initiated by no other than a CEO of the Xerox Corporation who formed the first Network with his black employees to address racial discrimination and help move towards creating a fairer work environment. WOW!! Now that’s a sponsor and an ally. Thank you, Joseph Wilson, because what you did set the path for companies and employee networks across the US, UK and other countries.

Your Employee Networks Support Belonging

The role of Employee Networks has not changed much from then to today, apart from them being initiated by CEOs. But they can and do play an important role in supporting and helping others have that deep sense of belonging.

  • An employee network provides a community where individuals can connect, collaborate and more importantly be themselves and be fully supported to do so. They provide a haven, a family, a family focused on Inclusion, Representation, Identity and Diversity which when all added up, equal belonging.
  • Sharing lived experiences helps that deep sense of belonging and just knowing you are not alone can go a long way. We are seeing the value of these networks in these challenging times particularly providing a safe space and bringing people together when most of us are apart in the workplace.

  • They help educate others on the challenges which inhibit inclusion and belonging at the same time highlight the opportunities to maximise inclusion and belonging.

For many Black, “BAME” “Multicultural” “Race” networks they can be the most overworked, misunderstood, under appreciated, under invested, and underrepresented in terms of seniority within their network. Take note: they are relevant, valuable, and much needed, perhaps now more than ever before. The networks, those who lead or play an active part, need to be valued, respected, developed, recognised and fully supported by the very same organisations they are helping. There is your diverse talent pipeline right there!

To those Employee Networks who face the everyday challenge of your existence, keep on keeping on. In the words of James Baldwin:“We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist”. I smile at the last part, using the word love, in the world of work it does not and should not factor, right? Wrong…human beings need to love and be loved, and our first experience of love be that self-love, love from a parent, sibling, friends etc starts from the beginning and that’s family, our first social connection. Love shows itself in many different ways, top two ways for me is, caring and kindness. Two things everyone is capable of but often times left at the front door of work. We only need to look at the present situation to appreciate first-hand the impact of not being able to hug, kiss, connect to loved ones and marry that up to the sharp increase of mental health challenges and issues many of us are facing either directly or indirectly in a myriad of different ways. It is indeed the family where we first have that deep sense of belonging, even if “family” has negative or positive connotation or experience for us. I come from a black family, led by two amazing parents who ensured that all our voices were represented, we knew who we were and that our difference would be the key to unlocking our future pathways. It is through their nurturing, care, guidance, wisdom and so much more that fed my Mind, Body and Spirt to be who I am, to make my choices good or bad, use my voice to state my opinions, ideas and perspectives, champion others, and to be able to love and love others.

written by Fiona Daniel,
Radius Consultant

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