Belongingness

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Today I’m talking about belongingness at work.

What is belongingness?

Belongingness is a feeling of being accepted into a group through such things as shared values, interests, knowledge, skills or experience.  Most experts agree that a feeling of belonging is a basic human need.

Where can we find it?

Different people will find a sense of belongingness in different places with different groups at different times in their lives. Below are a few examples:

  • in family groups
  • in friendship groups
  • in clubs
  • at school, college or university
  • in professional groups e.g. HR professionals, doctors, dentists, solicitors etc.
  • on social network sites (Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook)
  • at work

What are the benefits?

  • Preventing feelings of isolation and loneliness. (The need to belong is so fundamental that without it we can suffer from symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression)
  • Feeling motivated
  • Feeling happier
  • Being more engaged in the workplace
  • Being more productive at work
  • According to Garcia and Miralles (Ikigai, The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, 2017) it could also be the main ingredient to a long and happy life

Are there any negatives?

Sometimes people will reject others from the group. This will have the opposite effect of belongingness.   It can also cause conflict and feelings of  victimisation, unfairness, bullying and/or harassment.

What does this mean for the workplace?

There are many ways to achieve a sense of belongingness at work:

  • at organisation level
  • at department level
  • at team level
  • by encouraging social groups

Organisation Level Belongingness

We feel we belong to an organisation when we share the same personal values.  We are attracted to organisations that we feel we can really buy into. This is why organisations communicating a strong message or goal often do very well – they attract like minded people and the level of engagement is high leading to increased productivity. Consequently, this leads to a really strong and positive organisational culture and a happy work place.

The reality is that we sometimes we take jobs because we need the income or we need an interest outside the home and we’re not that bothered about the goals of the organisation. This can still make us happy but when this happens we often find belongingness at a different level – with work colleagues who may be in the same situation for example. If there is no feeling of belonging it’s likely that the level of engagement will be low and this is often reflected in staff turnover.

Department level

Even when we share the values of the organisation, if we feel our manager doesn’t it affects our happiness at work.  This is one of the most common reasons we feel aggrieved or, at worst, resign.

Team level

Teams can exist within our own departments or across different functions. Well run projects involving cross functional teams can do so much to help us feel we belong.

Social groups

Even if all else fails we can create social groups at work to assist in giving us our much needed feeling of belonging.  Anyone can set up a group.  This could involve activities outside work hours such as visits to the cinema, theatre, sporting events or just going out for a meal (let’s face it – everyone eats!)  We could also set up clubs for different interests or maybe set up a charity of the year so everyone can be involved in fundraising.

Summary

Belongingness is a basic human need. Feeling we belong at work increases happiness, health and wellbeing and productivity.  It’s a win, win. We can all do something at some level to make this happen.  It might also help us to live longer!

I hope you’ve found this interesting.

Yvonne

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