How to Find Humanity in Your Work

by Karl Rohde — Get free updates of new posts here. Photo Credit: Karl Rohde


Children Show Us What It Means To Be Untainted

Observing children we see a lot of what is natural behaviour. As it turns out children show us that it’s natural to be creative, to speak up and share wild and whacky ideas. It's natural be vulnerable and express emotions. It's natural to explore, be curious, wander and daydream. It's natural to build things and experiment with the things they touch. It's natural to challenge and question why over and over. It's natural to share thoughts without hesitation. It's natural to be authentic. It's natural to be accepting and non judgemental. It's natural to have fun and learn through play. It's natural to fix things and solve problems. It's natural to ask for help and try new things. It's natural to make mistakes and learn through those mistakes. It's natural to make friends and socialise freely. It's natural to grow and progress. This basic list is not a surprise. It's being human.

If the above list is what we could call natural human behaviours it's perhaps alarming to see very few of them in the average workplace, apart from crying or screaming we see in some children when things don’t go as planned.

For many it would seem one has to forsake a much of our humanity to assimilate as an employee all under the banner of business professionalism. And the cost of this is high: depression, anxiety, stress, anger, fear, insecurity to name a few ills.

How can we give up our humanity and expect to thrive in our work?

It was the late management guru, Peter Drucker who said culture eats strategy for breakfast. Indeed it would seem more and more businesses are seeing that the right culture as a strategy is churning out extraordinary results. Obvious examples like Google, Treehouse, Atlassian, Gartner, Zappos, Basecamp and Apple stand out for pioneering human-centric cultures and their market success provides ample evidence that it makes a difference. Very few of us are fortunate to work in these companies, and so it's easy to get caught up in the sarcasm and cynicism whirlpools that abound in the common autocratic workplace.

So how do we overcome this challenge?

Give Up The Need To Be Right

In my work with managing teams I’ve observed that people bloom when they are given safety, space and responsibility. As leaders it's up to us to create an atmosphere where people can give their gifts. If you’re a manager, let go of control and push people to lead and express their innate value. Coach and mentor over telling and directing.


As individuals, we need to unlearn. Unlearning the things that are unnatural, like holding back, keeping quiet, waiting for permission, accepting less and being mediocre is essential. This requires courage and a keen eye on bringing positive natural behaviors to your work. We need to capitalise on our gifts and what's innately valuable about out uniqueness. Creativity is the key. Being creative for its own sake over being creative for a master or a boss. Learn to do your best work for yourself. If we harken back to our untarnished selves it's plain to see that creative capability lies, often times dormant, in us all.

The Intersection of Art and Productivity

Find your inner child and be creative. Like Picasso, Jamie Oliver and David Attenborough, be so creative they can’t ignore you. All the while keep up the search for a place that feeds this creativity. Ironically it's your creativity that will set you up for fulfillment and success in the right company.

The Understated Impact of Association

And finally find other creative people to associate with. Nothing has a stronger bearing on our life than the people we spend our time with. Jim Rohn’s famous words, “we are the average of the 5 people we spend most of our time with” drive the point home.

Former Google CFO, Patrick Pichette, advised when looking for work do it in this order: people first, company second, role last. Indeed, working with the right people at the right company trumps the right role in the wrong company with the wrong people.

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