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  • Writer's pictureMike Bensi

Allow Others the Space to Belong

Even at the age of 7, we still refer to our youngest child as our baby.

When he tries to play at the neighborhood playground, he unfortunately gets called a baby by the other kids. A lot. It doesn't deter him. He keeps trying to play, even when they aren't interested in playing with someone half their size.

One day, my son brought a soccer ball with him to the playground. Like in the past, he didn't get much attention by the other kids at first.

But then someone noticed the ball. And asked if they could play with him. Then another came by. And another. By the time we called him in for dinner, he was receiving high fives from the other kids. And nobody called him a baby.

Breaking into a new team can be as challenging as finding someone to play with on the playground. A sense of belonging relies on how someone feels respected or treated fairly by a group, which can take time to develop.

Ensuring team members feel included has been show to impact employee performance and engagement. But with more Zoom meetings - and polarized societal issues - helping in this area can be more difficult for leaders.

While I hope you're not calling your new hires "babies," there are everyday things that I see from companies that you can do to help your team members feel noticed and valued:

  • Allow everyone to share and value what each person can bring to the table. When you bring on a new hire, allow them to choose a project/initiative/large task to lead based on what they've seen in their first 90 days that focuses on their strength and experiences.

  • Allow voices to be heard. Ask for feedback in organization wide surveys - or frequent check-ins.

  • Incorporate employee input into organizational initiatives. If you ask for feedback, share what action you took based on that feedback - even if you decide not to pursue something.

  • Emphasize team members' growth and development. Be intentional on a career path when you can - or frequently ask the employee what development goals they have for themselves each quarter.

Employers who don't create this sense of belonging are seeing their employees take their ball and go to another playground.

So how are you setting up your playground at work to welcome outsiders?

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