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“People must feel safe to be honest about themselves and towards others. Only then can we use the strength of everyone and prevent people from doing things that they don’t really know how to do or don’t want to do.”

Jos de Blok

Most organisations employ people to produce widgets. Even in the services sector, in consultancy, and in public service. The aim seems to be to mechanise and break down very complex processes into the smallest identifiable components so that performance can be measured, and people can be managed.

This is soulless and unsafe. It creates an atmosphere of fear, where people feel the need to wear a mask, and present a certain censored version of themselves in order to be seen as ‘performing’ and professional.

But humans are messy, and life isn’t orderly or measurable.

Humans are also exceedingly resourceful and clever and innovative.

If you believe your organisation is a machine for producing widgets, then I suggest you automate and mechanise as much as you possibly can, as quickly as you can, and cease employing human beings to do meaningless work.

If that isn’t what you’re trying to do, then you need to learn to embrace some of that messiness and create a safe place for people to be whole at work. Including you!

  • Do you know how to be your whole, messy, imperfect self at work?
  • Do you know how to identify the ways you might be making it unsafe for your colleagues to be their whole selves at work?
  • Do you know how to create an environment of psychological safety?
  • Do you know how to celebrate the messiness, the mistakes, the highs and the lows that make a workplace more like real life?