5 Ways to Create a Sense of Belonging at Work

5 Ways to Create a Sense of Belonging at Work

GUEST POST from David Burkus

A sense of belonging on a team is crucial for its success and productivity. Belonging is that sense of acceptance and inclusion when people feel they can bring their authentic self to work. When team members feel included and valued, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and contribute their best work. And on a diverse team, belonging determines how much the team taps into diverse perspectives, opinions, and ideas. As a leader, you encourage that sense of belonging through the habits, norms, and behaviors that you model and that get mimicked by the rest of the team.

In this article, we’ll outline how to create a sense of belonging at work through five actions leaders take that get emulated on the team and make everyone feel included.

1. Share Information Openly

The first way to create a sense of belonging at work is to share information openly. Open and transparent communication is the foundation of a cohesive and inclusive team. When team members have access to all relevant information, including financials and decisions, they feel trusted and respected. That transparency fosters a sense of belonging, as everyone is on the same page and can contribute effectively.

Sharing information that is not typically shared can also increase the sense of belonging. By going beyond the basics and providing insights into the organization’s goals, challenges, and strategies, team members feel more connected to the bigger picture. This understanding helps them see how their individual contributions fit into the overall team’s success.

2. Share Credit Widely

The second way to create a sense of belonging is to share credit widely. In a collaborative work environment, it’s essential to recognize and appreciate the contributions of every team member. Sharing credit widely means acknowledging and celebrating success as a collective effort, rather than attributing it solely to individual achievements. Avoid taking credit for yourself—even if senior leaders attribute the win to you—and instead attribute success to the team. By doing so, you create a culture of collaboration and unity, where everyone feels valued and recognized for their contributions.

Teach team members to share credit for their wins and acknowledge the contributions of others. Encourage a culture of gratitude and recognition, where team members actively appreciate and celebrate each other’s achievements. This not only strengthens the sense of belonging but also promotes a positive and supportive work environment.

3. Create Rituals

The third way to create a sense of belonging is to create rituals. Rituals play a significant role in creating a sense of belonging within a team. They provide a shared experience and a sense of identity, fostering a feeling of unity and camaraderie. Rituals can take various forms, from formal traditions to informal inside jokes, and they contribute to the team’s culture and cohesion.

Whether it’s a team chant, a recurring icebreaker game, or a team-specific acronym, rituals create a sense of meaning and belonging. They establish a sense of familiarity and shared history, making team members feel like they are part of something special. However, it’s crucial to ensure that rituals include everyone and do not create an “us versus them” dynamic. Exclusionary rituals can have the opposite effect, alienating certain team members and undermining the sense of belonging.

4. Ask for Advice

The fourth way to create a sense of belonging is to ask for advice. Asking for advice is a powerful way to show team members that their knowledge and perspective are valued. It demonstrates trust and respect for their expertise, fostering a sense of belonging and empowerment. When team members see that their input is genuinely sought and considered, they feel more invested in the decision-making process and the overall success of the team.

Regularly ask for advice before making decisions, especially those that directly impact the team. This not only allows you to gather diverse perspectives but also reinforces the sense of belonging by involving team members in the decision-making process. When decisions are made, make sure to show how their advice contributed to the final outcome, further reinforcing their value and impact.

5. Model Active Listening

The final way to create a sense of belonging is to model active listening. Active listening is a fundamental skill that leaders and team members should cultivate to create a sense of belonging. It involves giving your full attention when team members are speaking, showing genuine interest and respect for their ideas and opinions. Non-verbal cues, such as nodding or smiling, can also signal active listening and encourage team members to share more openly. Additionally, asking follow-up questions and seeking clarification demonstrates a genuine desire to understand and engage with the speaker’s thoughts.

Leaders who model active listening train the team to respond similarly when interacting with each other. And that creates a culture where everyone is engaged because everyone feels respected. That not only increases a sense of belonging but increases how much information is being shared between teammates—and how many different ideas are being generated when problem solving.

Creating a sense of belonging within a team is essential for its success and productivity. By taking the actions discussed in this article, such as sharing information openly, sharing credit widely, creating rituals, asking for advice, and modeling active listening, you can foster a positive work environment where team members feel included, valued, and motivated. Remember, creating a sense of belonging takes time and effort, but the benefits are worth it. When team members feel a strong sense of belonging, they are more likely to be engaged, committed, and willing to go the extra mile. In other words, they’ll be better able to do their best work ever.

Image credit: Pixabay

Originally published on DavidBurkus.com on July 17, 2023

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About David Burkus

Dr. David Burkus is an organizational psychologist and best-selling author. Recognized as one of the world’s leading business thinkers, his forward-thinking ideas and books are helping leaders and teams do their best work ever. David is the author of five books about business and leadership and he's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, CNN, the BBC, NPR, and more. A former business school professor turned sought-after international speaker, he’s worked with organizations of all sizes and across all industries.

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