Workers’ Day  |  Humanity


This month we “celebrated” Workers’ Day. Workers’ Day is a holiday that honours all workers. The majority of countries around the world celebrate workers’ day on 1 May. My questioning mind is wondering, what does “honouring all workers” entail? How can we celebrate something if we don’t know what it means?


Honour means to demonstrate high respect or great esteem for someone. By honouring another you are saying you see great value in them. To regard or treat (someone) with admiration and respect. To regard or give special recognition.

The meaning makes sense, however, in practice, what does it require, and look like beyond the 1st of May? The discussions I have with clients are not feedback of how they are treated with respect, feeling valued and giving and receiving recognition, on the contrary it is about being and feeling disrespected, and not getting recognition. Herewith a few examples of recent questions:

How do you:
  • encourage people with opposing views to not make assumptions about one another?
  • avoid one person judging another for their decision to travel into the office when someone else feels it’s unsafe?
  • deal with some people getting upset by people turning off their cameras on Zoom calls, while others dislike the pressure of feeling they always need to be turned on?
  • deal with people’s moods? deal with remarks – sarcastic, inappropriate, in an open plan office?

There are no easy straightforward answers to these questions, and sadly no manual to consult. However, as I contemplate on what does honouring each other in the workplace entail I find myself stuck with the “human” element. In my opinion, at the core is the person, the individual, the human being.

It is difficult to honour each other at work, to treat others with respect, to give recognition. Humans are diverse as we have different skill sets, experiences, agendas, needs and core motivations. Some get easily irritated, annoyed, and some needs time to process. In some instances, our intentions might be pure, however in reality people feel offended and take things personally. I found some comfort in Peter Block’s words; “the diversity and imperfection of human is, ultimately, what makes institutions engaging, humane, and habitable.” Peter Block reminds us that “human systems are imperfect.” By acknowledging the imperfection and diversity of humans, we are reminded that the solutions that work for some, don’t work for others. This doesn’t mean that, we can justify how we treat others when things get challenging, however it does mean remembering that we work with complex, emotional, contradictory humans — ourselves included!

Somehow, we have been led to believe that at work, we must diminish our humanity, behaving (and appearing) in a certain way, a very specific way. Getting to the office we need to leave our true selves at the door, be super-efficient, knowledgeable and productive, be perfect. When I am asked the “how to” questions I often feel the urge to “solve”, however, when I pause, listen, and identify what is at the core, I remember the person, the human being and only then we (in partnership) can humanise answers and find solutions. Doing this, I believe is a form of honouring each other at work.

HUMANITY AT WORK – can look like
  • Showing up honestly and without self-righteousness. Admit when you are wrong, not knowing something, or asking for help in a polite, genuine way.
  • Be self-aware and manage your emotions. Be socially aware and manage relationships. It is not the victory of the heart over the head. Simply it is the unique intersection of both.
  • Regularly take a step back and look within to gain clarity on your priorities and values. Otherwise, you will move from one activity to another and from crisis to crisis without making any sense of purpose or direction.
  • Apply yourself and work without distractions, find simple techniques to overcome everyday self-sabotaging behaviours to improve your professional performance.
  • Admit that there is a breathing human being behind every achievement and failure and approach the task at hand with a sense of playfulness and curiosity by being aware of your own and others’ flawed humanness.

On the surface, these notions appear to be simple. However, similar to several important aspects of growth, business, and life, it is not their understanding that creates a difference. It is their application.

To Conclude

There is only one of you, and the world of work would be missing an important ingredient if you weren’t willing to share who you are; sharing who you are is a form of honouring yourself. We can’t expect others to treat us with respect, recognise and value us if we don’t share our humanity. Here’s to applying ourselves, to next level experiences and celebrating humanity in the workplace!
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