I’m often asked what belongingness at work means. So, I’ve been working tirelessly to identify in lay terms the qualities or traits that make an organization a high BQ organization – that is, an organization with a high belongingness quotient.
A high BQ organization is one that actively strives to transform the workplace into a community by fostering a sense of belonging among its workers. High BQ organizations have certain identifiable traits, and one such key trait is Elasticity.
Elastic organizations are willing and able to widen their real and virtual corridors to welcome those for whom those workplaces were never built or intended in the first place. They understand those barriers were put in place to exclude those who did not look, talk or act “the” part. These are not status quo organizations. They do not assume that a person does not belong simply because that workplace wasn’t built with that person in mind.
Elastic organizations are adaptable. They’re versed with workplace patterns, and steeped in the knowledge of communal or national history. They understand that there is more to building a great workplace community than just hiring people of diverse backgrounds. For them, diversity is the starting point, not the end goal.
For them, diversity without inclusion is like fingers on one’s hands – varied, beautiful but each in its own lane; forever running parallel, one to the other.
For them, belongingness is crucial because they are educated on the history and ramifications of exclusion. They remember that exclusion and ostracism have been the birthplace and womb of much of the world’s divisions.
For them, allyship is only a first step. They recognize that the opt-in nature of allyship can only be effective for so long. They wonder what happens when that common interest no longer exists. So they look beyond just well-meaning, well-intentioned neighbors, and strive to build communities with a semblance of Singapore’s once vibrant kampung spirit, or Africa’s abiding expectation of the village raising the child.
Elastic organizations are like families with an unexpected third child in a house they had only built for two children. They do not tell the new child: “Go away, no room for you here.” They find a third mattress, make the children share, knock down a wall – do what’s necessary to extend the space. They are equally committed to providing the same degree of nurturing, safety and belonging to all three children. They do not abdicate their responsibilities, ignore the changing realities about them, or doggedly commit to a grocery list for four in a household for five.
For a high BQ organization, community is not a bad word. It’s an activator, a rallying cry, the gong in the village square.
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