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Reflections on what matters to me at work


What matters to me at work? Gosh, I've been contemplating this topic a lot recently. It may be my middle age! It may be the fact that I worked for a charity, with a strong purpose at its heart. It may be that in the last couple of years my life and priorities have changed significantly. Or it may be that in this strange Brexit limbo, finding meaning and connections at work are more important than ever. I thought I would share my musings and I would love to hear if any of this resonates with other communicators.

Below are the things that matter to me at work. I feel these can all be summarised in one word: Belonging. The sense of belonging to something bigger than me, to something tribal and to something worthwhile.

Individuals matter
The power of the individual matters greatly to me. Allowing individuals to feel free to be themselves, to contribute in a way that suits their learning style, to accommodate different viewpoints and to let people show their true personalities in work will unleash the best in people.

Virgin was the first place I worked where introverts and reflectors were considered to be as valuable as extroverts. In fact, the managers were all trained on how to prepare for meetings that would create a space for different personalities and learning styles. That created a sense of true inclusion and acceptance.

That part of my career gave me ten wonderful years, which defined me as the character I am today. Working there allowed me to grow in confidence and to make sense of, and feel hugely proud of, my introverted personality. The experience of working at Virgin taught me so many crucial lessons that I believe are essential for communicators and engagement practitioners.

It seems so obvious, but the leaders acted human, remembering individual names, making time to listen and not just talk, being secure in themselves to sit with us in the open plan offices, and probably the most important one of all, simply saying 'hello' each morning. There were no airs and graces, just pure people-leadership.

Fun matters
Virgin and Home were both companies that enjoyed a little quirkiness, as well as helping us all to realise that work can also be fun! I should caveat that fun doesn't mean less work. In fact, the more fun I've had in the workplace, the harder I've worked.

Being light hearted doesn't mean you aren't serious about your work. It simply means that you can laugh at yourself when things go wrong, you can enjoy what you're doing much more and you can create a sense of camaraderie and feel that 'we're in it together' when the pressure is really on.

It's a powerful legacy that those of us who worked together during that time, are still bound by the passion, memories, laughter and learning that we experienced. Some of us remain the best of friends, we've played key roles at team mates weddings, we're godparents to children of old team mates, we constantly play back the memories of 'the good old days' and we all know that the experience of working for a company that treated its employees as humans has completely changed our expectations of how work should feel.

Creativity matters
The space to be creative matters to me and having the freedom and endorsement to try new things is one of my biggest motivators. Internal communications should be creative. I don't mean that everything should be a creative campaign but having the freedom to try new approaches to reach our audiences, to see different solutions, to experiment with new technology and to want to break from the norm is critical for our roles. When creativity is stifled, communications will fail.

Being listened to matters
This links to the importance of the individual but feeling that I am contributing and that my voice matters is a huge driver. I may be introverted, but that doesn't mean that I'm shy or without a voice!

We are all of equal value and importance as people, and it is the role of the organisation and the leaders to create a culture and space that allows its people to feel that they can contribute. We have voices outside of work, able to share an opinion at the touch of a few phone taps, so feeling able to voice them in a safe way when inside of work matters even more these days.

Feeling safe matters
Which brings me to my final point. Feeling safe is a huge personal and professional value to me. In my work life this shows up as feeling safe to speak up and contribute, safe to challenge the norm, safe to question a leader, safe that it's an open and transparent culture, where backstabbing and speaking behind backs is not encouraged. Safe to be myself, and safe for others to be themselves without fear of being singled out for being different. Safe to try new things. Safe to want to grow, and develop even if it's outside of your role profile. Safe to just be me.

As I said at the beginning, this can all be summed up as 'Belonging'. Belonging matters to me. 

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Tuesday, 07 December 2021
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