I have heard countless stories of people describing oppressive workplace environments in which they do not feel safe being authentic or vulnerable. Literally– there have been so many stories I lost count.
Women in particular have expressed horror if they cry at work in response to something that is upsetting (either personally or professionally), fearing the risk of being perceived as weak. In fact, many managers actually report that they believe crying at work is a sign of weakness or unprofessionalism. People of color and members of other marginalized communities cope with workplace cultures that are rife with bias, harassment, and utter disrespect on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, I have also seen many instances where the skills and traits for which people are rewarded for being a good manager are in direct opposition to the capacity to be compassionate. Sadly, “Human Resources” departments tend to be neither humane nor resourceful.
People are not automatons; we have real lives in and out of the workplace. We feel, we hurt, we grow, we love, we grieve. We also need to eat, pee and breathe regularly throughout the day, and too many people are “working through lunch,” or getting no lunch at all. Workplace culture needs a serious overhaul. Corporate. Non-profit. Civil service. Union. Executive. Self-employment. Everybody. And funders need to be on board for this change as well, not just grant funders but donors and government funding streams (while we still have them).
We need ambassadors of authenticity in the workplace who can advocate for people’s humanity.