Belonging at Work
“I remember my mom coming home from work everyday drained. She would sprawl out on the couch and sigh as her nightly ritual and she never had to hesitate to find something to complain about that happened earlier in her work day. That is my biggest fear.” -Gen-Z graduate student
I recently interviewed Gen-Z students entering the workforce for the first time and it became apparent that this is a common fear shared among many. The work world is progressing, and people are starting to realize that work should not be associated with negative emotions.
It should be normal to have a sense of belonging at work, not rare. Nobody should leave work exhausted with their social battery running on low, day after day.
You should not have to envy your one friend who talks about how much they love their work while you’re catching up over a beer on a Friday - constantly wishing that you felt the same and didn’t have to pretend you have the energy to even be at the local brewery after another draining week.
Everybody deserves to have a sense of belonging at work, and it should not be uncommon.
Concerns of Gen-Z
Recently, it has become visible that Gen-Z has a major concern about not ‘fitting in’ in their work environment. People looking for jobs fear going into a workplace that they hate. And what a valid concern that is - nobody wants to have a negative attitude towards something they do every day.
“When looking for your next role, what are some company red flags?”
“I worked at this one company that had a dreadful environment. I felt stuck because there was no room for growth or change. Leaving that role, I have always remembered the way it made me feel and it is definitely a red flag to me if a company seems uninvested in their employee's goals and growth. I get unmotivated and begin to dread work if I do not feel challenged and surrounded by people who are also motivated. Competitive motivation is healthy and something I thrive off of.”
“The most frustrating thing about work can be giving more than you get in return, it results in me creating a negative attitude towards my work. There have been roles where I was taking on much more responsibility than I was supposed to, but no recognition is given or even adequate pay. This made me feel drained and unvalued, which brings down my attitude in the workplace.
"I’m a Gen-Z worried about not ever finding a sense of belonging in my future work environment. It is a red flag when a company undervalues their employees, everybody desires a sense of belonging - and there needs to be an honest, open, and respectful environment for that to happen.”
“Who was the worst manager you’ve had, and why?”
Elijah Larson: “I spent one summer working under poor management. It was visible to myself and my co-workers. My manager was very unresponsive and too busy to notice anything which made everybody feel unvalued. My manager had built up some sort of fear of higher management, the CEO, and struggled to try to manage our team ‘perfectly’ which created a sense of stress for all the other employees. Perfection is an unrealistic expectation to work under.”
Michael Stein: “The worst manager I ever worked under acted as a director rather than a delegator. They made everything feel forced and there was little autonomy for the other employees- making it hard to be creative within our work.”
Let’s Move Forward, Together
No longer should you eagerly say ‘yes’ to the first job offer that comes your way. It is obvious that people entering the workforce want to break the cycle of toxic work environments. People are tired of allowing work to be a negative aspect of their life. People, just like the ones interviewed above, want to grow, be creative, challenged, and feel valued within their place of work. Nobody wants to associate feelings of defeat and exhaustion with their work and it should be normal for people to find a sense of belonging within their work. The work world is progressing, and it starts with you! There has been a dramatic focus on the importance of workplace cultures that also support your own goals. There are many factors that go into having a sense of belonging at work such as management styles, co-workers, the flow of open communication, and mental health awareness. In fact, these factors are more important than the work itself. Good work is a result of a good work environment.
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, and get started on understanding yourself, your interests, and ultimately what the best work environment is for you.