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  • Writer's pictureMarta

Sense Of Belonging At Work

Photo by Windows on Unsplash

I have had many different jobs, more than I would have liked. As a psychology graduate in Spain, I have worked as anything but a psychologist. I have been a cook, a salesperson in a shopping centre, a data recorder, a human resources technician, and a prevention technician in three different companies and four different companies as a computer programmer. If you ask me if I have ever felt a sense of belonging to the company, I will tell you that when I have felt it the most is when I have been given the most freedom not to have it. Like love, the more it hooks you, the less it binds you.

When I was young in temporary jobs I obviously never felt more than a number and later, in more serious jobs, my derisory salary and my null hopes of achieving something more, did not make me feel valued or part of anything bigger than myself, but just a replaceable resource.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Although a sense of belonging at work is often seen as positive and desirable, in my experience, it can be a dangerous illusion. In many cases, the workplace can be a source of dissatisfaction, a place where we are asked to abandon our individuality and become part of an impersonal machine.

In these work environments, the notion of "belonging" to the company or team can be oppressive, making us feel as if we are being absorbed into a meaningless entity. Competition and pressure to meet targets can often lead to strained and conflicting relationships, rather than a sense of community and collaboration.

However, we cannot ignore that work cultures can often be alienating and disconnected, where employees are seen as resources or tools to achieve business goals.

Rather than fostering true human connection and a sense of belonging, these work environments can perpetuate a culture of competition and individualism, which in turn can affect our ability to form meaningful relationships in our personal lives.

Photo by fauxels

In my case there was one company, where I spent four years, that always felt like a cult. We were often gathered in large rooms to remind all employees of the greatness of belonging to it, all that it did for us, and all that it gave us every day. At these meetings, we were given pens, chocolates and personalised corporate gifts. However, they were not even able to give us five extra minutes for a coffee. We had to be there for exactly eight hours a day and they had of course to count all our heads, teleworking was of course only accepted by the very few and was something absolutely exclusive and out of reach. Of course in these meetings we were told again and again about the dangers of going out there and changing jobs, reminding us how many of those who had dared to leave this company wanted to come back feeling empty and helpless like lost children. At least my five years of psychology helped me to take a critical view of the manipulation we were being subjected to. So as soon as I could take risks, I left the company, I didn't really have much to lose. Thank God I never had to go back begging for forgiveness and I think it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my working life.

It has to be said that this feeling of belonging is something that some people never develop and that others, on the contrary, develop to an inordinate degree. In our quest to find our place in the world, some people find in work a place where they can develop and grow, not only professionally, but also personally. Work allows some to establish meaningful relationships with colleagues and to collaborate on exciting projects. For some, it offers a sense of community and belonging that can make a difference in their daily lives.

I have never been, as I say, a strong advocate of any company, but it is perhaps thanks to this relentless pursuit of salary and personal improvement that has brought me to my latest company, where I have now been for five years (I have beaten my record, by the way), where I feel most at home and have the greatest sense of belonging of all of them. I feel valued, first and foremost in my personal and economic development. They have allowed me to evolve and take on responsibilities, they have accepted me as one of them despite my permanent impostor syndrome and the age difference with some of my colleagues. I have done activities with my peers inside and outside work, but never from the idea of a superior who imposes and obliges from the false idea of voluntariness, but from the spontaneity of those of us who form a team.

I am still aware of being a replaceable resource, I have this awareness of being small and passing through any company, but I have learned what a sense of belonging is and what it is not.

Photo by Alexander Suhorucov

A sense of belonging is not the fear of being fired, displaced or undervalued.

Sense of belonging is not being given corporate gifts that you could buy yourself with a better salary, or teambuilding where you waste your time when you know you will have to take on that waste of time in overtime.

Sense of belonging is not that your job is your second home because you spend more hours at work than anywhere else.

Nor is it a sense of belonging that you know your colleagues better than your own children because you can't reconcile your work and personal life.

A sense of belonging is feeling valued, as a person and as a worker, with a competitive salary, with real professional development, with open and honest colleagues and even more open and honest bosses. No competition, no absurd pressures or impossible deadlines. A sense of belonging is being in a company because you want to and not because you have no other choice. Sense of belonging is not taking on the values of the company as your own, but creating your own values within the company and creating synergies with your colleagues.

The key to all this, I think, is to recognise that a sense of belonging at work is not something that can be forced or artificially created. There is no magic formula.

To find out more:

If you have never thought about this before and want to know if you have a sense of belonging in your company, ask yourself the following questions.

  • Do you feel motivated to contribute to the success of the company?

  • Do you feel comfortable expressing your ideas and opinions at work?

  • Do you feel that your personal goals are aligned with the company's goals?

  • Do you feel proud to work for the company?

  • Do you feel that the company encourages diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

  • Do you feel satisfied with the benefits and compensation you receive at the company?

  • Do you feel the company offers a healthy work-life balance?

  • Do you feel supported by your co-workers and supervisors at work?

  • Do you feel that the company offers opportunities to learn and develop new skills?

  • Do you feel enthusiastic about the company's projects and goals?


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