Social connections require time to be constructed. Long lasting relationships gain consistency and complicity as they survive conflicts, losses and crises as much as they celebrate collective achievements and changes to higher levels.
The pride of belonging is something sufficiently abstract to be encapsulated in prescribed pills. After all, to feel part of a group is so intrinsic to the human condition as well as the search for distinctive social status that makes us unique, even inserted in the collective.
The feeling of belonging has also been a dynamic concept throughout time, and absolutely situational depending on personal and social issues. There was a time when organizations provided such attention in an autocratic and paternalistic way, suffocating individuality in favor of group convenience. Individuals were then part of a larger gearbox kept by ironed bird cages, apart from the productive process system especially because of the specialization exacerbated and fostered by the increasing search for increased productivity. Thus, the pride of belonging was directly associated with the conception of being part of something incredibly gigantic, admired, and infallible. We still experience such traditional models nowadays.
But the contemporaneity also invites us to defy traditional paradigms. It would be no different with the organizational models. The erosion of the institutional bastions of the 20th century broke with unilateral hierarchical logic in favor of a something more fluid and horizontal. The subliminal premise of this change was precisely to bring speed and flexibility to the system. The entire legacy positioned itself as infrastructure in the new paradigm of APIs and APPs. Agile, simple, ephemeral. The impetuous squads spread throughout the organizational body recreated the work context as a microcosm connected to a more diffuse universe. Pride of belonging also became connected to more agile and operational deliveries, probably with more obvious and immediate feedback on the impact of labor on something concrete and visible, even if restricted. Only alienation in relation to everything remains a reality as the cells function as part of an organism still slightly intelligible.
The emphasis on inspired intentions has been the tone of the contemporary era. No more pragmatic and self-centered in missions of growth and domain. More inclusive and abstract in missions that engage different stakeholders in noble journeys of well-being. Nowadays, the pride of belonging to something that surpasses the organization itself is essential for engaging employees in an organizational project.
Such digression about the very evolution of organizations - of course I am referring to large and middle market companies here - is also a preamble for reflections on the impact of the pandemic on the construction of these social relations. The extended confinement is a real threat to the consistency of these personal and social bonds. Certainly, more challenging for older generations, but also relevant for the kids recently inserted in the corporate world.
Remote working as an alternative is certainly a plus for the pride of belonging since it allows for different personal and family dynamics in specific situations - from the urban vehicle rota system to earlier departure on extended public holidays.
Remote working as paradigm can bring disconnection from the collective corporate purpose. In this case, the pride of belonging fades away from the unfamiliarity caused by distance. Social conformity is lost, complicity and companionship are lost, and attachment is lost.
The social relationships need to be strengthened urgently.
Mind the Gap!
Daniel Augusto Motta, PhD, MSc
Founder & CEO BMI Blue Management Institute