We Are Allowed to Be Human

by Alli Polin on December 18, 2012

We Are Allowed To Be Human - Even At Work

I’ve written a few blog posts for today and each one leaves me wanting.  I feel like with each post I write, I’m covering up what’s really happening with me and I’m missing an opportunity to truly connect with you in our shared pain and outrage.  I’m deeply saddened and confused by the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.  I’m confused because I cannot make sense out of the act and will never be able to – it’s insane and without logical explanation.  While I’m not having trouble coping or with my daily function, the event still weighs heavily on me and has touched me, like many of us, to my core.

I’m not drawn to reading about the killer or even searching for reasons why this one person committed this horrific act; I’m hurting for the families of all of the victims.  Nothing will ever bring back their loved ones.  No words can make them feel better about what happened.  Personally, I don’t believe that this was God’s plan for those children and brave adults, I do believe that one mentally ill individual changed everyone’s plans to suit his own.

The events of Sandy Hook have changed me.  I am engaged but a part of my spark is missing.  I wonder if people close to me – family, friends, clients and colleagues can tell that my heart is heavy.  Do they know?  Do they care?

Leaders need to remember that the people that they manage and lead are human beings – whole people with whole lives.  None of us are automatons that show up at the office and plug into an outlet at night to recharge.  Whether it’s the horror of this shooting, divorce, a child struggling at school or a sick parent, there are times when a person’s heart is pulled into the depths of challenge and sadness.  Fully showing up for the team is a gift of distraction but there will be glimmers of the whole life issues shining through once in a while.

On September 11, 2001 I was a senior HR leader responsible for tracking down team members that were working onsite at the Pentagon.  When I got them on the phone (thank goodness I was able to reach all of them) I let them know that I was there for them and they should take the time that they need.  From that experience forward I saw leaders that were able to successfully support their teams in time of crisis.

How can leaders support their team?  Here are a few ideas:

  • Give people space
  • Open your door
  • Be visible & present
  • Accept requests for time off
  • Listen when someone wants to be heard
  • Let them know it’s important to take care of themselves
  • Ask: “Are You OK?”
  • Share resources that are there to support them like the company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  • Be human

Instead of penalizing people, especially consistent contributors, for energy that ebbs and flows with their lives, let’s acknowledge that they are human.  Their humanity means that they hurt, love, celebrate and engage with authenticity and courage.

We are in control and have a point of choice for many things in our lives.  Gunfire in an elementary school is out of all of our control.  We can take back our power by sharing our strength and resolve to change with each other.  Now is the time to change the gun laws, change our conversations about mental health and change where we put our energy.

I’m not very political and stay away from many hot topics.  Giving myself permission to step back from Alli the coach and consultant and just be me is living my most authentic example of what it means to break the frame.  Give yourself and others the time and permission to do the same.

How have you supported people on your teams in times of personal crisis?  How have you let colleagues, friends and people you’ve directly managed know that it’s OK to be human?

(Photo credit)

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