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Human beings are not machines

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Yetunde Odugbesan-Omede


Human beings are not machines, although sometimes the workplace confuses this. We are complex beings with emotions. There’s a ubiquitous saying that goes, “When you get to work, check your emotions at the door.” As simple as it may sound, it’s not that easy to do. We are living in a society that is increasingly forcing individuals to lose their sense of identity, emotions and most importantly emotional intelligence. How can we argue that an essential factor to good and effective leadership is having emotional IQ, yet on other hand emotions are not welcomed at the work place.

Emotional balance is extremely important in every aspect of life; it’s a central part of our being. As a leadership and human capital management consultant, I work with executives and their employees to increase workplace productivity and engagement. The first thing that I ask and further assess is how people get along with one another. I spend some time studying and observing how employees communicate with each other, how bosses communicate with their employees and the overall morale of the workplace. And time and time again I see the pattern, people are not happy.

Specifically, they are not happy coming to work. Some love their work function but dislike their workplace. Of course, it may have to do with a variety of reasons such as workplace politics, lack of appreciation, too many workplace silos and so on; however what struck me was how removed people were. How bosses didn’t see the importance in simply asking their employees or team members how their day was. Or simply just buying a birthday card for their secretary or recognizing the hard work of a new employee. People are dealing with all sorts of issues in their personal lives that sometimes make it hard for them to just “check” it at the door.

Sometimes when an employee is not working up to his or her potential, it may not have to do with their work ethic; it may be something else. Perhaps a sick relative, financial issues, health issues or something else. And as a leader, you have to care about your employees. Their mental and emotional well being should be your concern. A simple question of, “How is your day going?” or “I notice you’re not yourself today, is everything ok?” Employees who feel valued are more likely to work harder with greater passion and purpose.

In a place where people spend 80 per cent of their day, it’s quite interesting to see how far removed emotionally leaders operate in the workplace. Human beings are not machines; businesses cannot continue to overlook the humanness that is necessary in order for things to get done. It baffles me that people can work together for years and not know anything about each other. I understand the importance of privacy and workplace boundaries; however, there must be a balance.

Workplace frustrations are real and increasingly employees are suffering mental and emotional breakdowns due to workplace pressure coupled with lack of empathy displayed by some leaders. My advice to all leaders in the workplace is to invest in team building and leadership development training and workshops, learn more about emotional intelligence and have a balanced approach to emotional wellness in the work place. Human beings are not machines and we cannot continue to treat them as such.


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Yetunde Odugbesan-Omede
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