An anchor to Great Place To Work®’s mission and a question many modern organizations desire to answer: What’s the secret ingredient to being a great workplace?
Does the key lie in possessing state-of-the-art technological processes and equipment? For some, it is by clinching the #1 spot in their respective industry. Sometimes, the answer for others means having trendy, laid-back workspaces that encourage collaboration.
Are they wrong motivations or perspectives? Not at all. Perhaps all of these comprise the essence of a great place to work. But what’s the root from where they all bloom to make great workplaces great?
The open secret is simple but complicated, tried-and-tested but not one size fits all. It is in simply being human.
Loren Avellana and her heartwarming story of how 7.ai helped her rise from the pits of loss and grief when her father passed is the quintessence of this blog: being a “human of great workplaces”.
This month’s blog entry is a tale about the power of empathy and how it profoundly transcends to ways that are more than you can possibly imagine.
Joining the 7.ai family was not part of Loren’s plans. Her several friends who put in a good word about the BPO company encouraged her to become an official member.
“Little did I know [that] that would be such a life-altering decision,” she described her leap of faith.
Now, she operates under the Organization Development and Talent Management team. This standpoint is a long way from when she started as a Product and Systems Trainer way back in 2007.
We indubitably observed in our discussion with Loren that she’s devoted to her role. Although we only communicated with her via an email thread, we sensed that it didn’t even take her a second to describe her work environment positively, “[It] is very demanding yet fulfilling, process-oriented yet people-driven. It is empowering and also collaborative.”
She was also very detailed regarding her day-to-day duties—reflecting her heavy sense of responsibility. Loren shared, “Every day, I prioritize checking in on my team, keeping tabs on how they are and providing them support if needed.”
She also touched on the Organization Development and Talent Management’s scope, “My team cares for overall organizational effectiveness through planned interventions as well as people-centric programs and processes.”
It’s crystal clear: Loren loves her job. She cares deeply for those under her wing at work. Neither are we questioning her loyalty to 7.ai after serving for over sixteen and a half years.
Loren’s dedication is so evident and true to those around her. So much so that even when it “seemed” like she faltered in that area during one of the most grueling seasons of her life, her company wasn’t even the tiniest bit doubtful.
A new kind of loss struck Loren in 2011 when her beloved father died. Understandably described as one of the most grueling seasons of her life, she felt a deep sense of grief. One so felt to her core that it was no ordinary feeling that she could just shake off and ease back into work with after taking the allotted bereavement leaves.
Despite the emotional distress, Loren held her ever-accountable mindset. Her unwavering “manager” persona was apparent when she said, “I worried about my team, I worried about the work left undone. I worried about how I might have impacted the people who were counting on me.”
But Loren, like all of us, is only human. At one point, the agony of losing someone you love becomes unbearable. Heartache crowds your thoughts, views, and disposition. Simply living can be painful. How much more to function at work like Loren?
It’s crucial to process and feel our emotions, or else the body takes over, and we’re left to just…succumb. This eventually happened to Loren as she reflected on what went down.
“The first few days back at work were a blur. All I remember was that I was operating on auto-pilot. One day, I had a leadership class to facilitate. I stood in front of the class. I could see their faces staring back at me, waiting for me to officially start the session. The only words I could utter were, ‘Good morning, guys,’ before I had to run out of the room in tears.”
It’s definitely no good experience to be so overwhelmed by emotions that you no longer feel you’re at the helm. But if there’s anything we can get from Loren’s breakdown, it’s inexplicably human to have emotions even in professional settings. Feelings aren’t secluded to a specific environment anyways.
For such a human moment, an equally human response makes perfect sense. Loren’s teammates showed up for her—one took her to a room to weep as much as she wanted, and another altruistically volunteered as her proxy for the training.
However, the most significant moment of empathy that fell upon her was via her then-manager.
We imagine this was shared with overflowing gratefulness when Loren said, “The following day, I got invited to speak to my manager. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and honestly, I was afraid of the repercussions of my actions from the day before.”
Loren continued, “He told me that he had heard about what happened. And that he was giving me more time off—no leaves to be filed, no questions asked, no strings attached. Just take as much time as I needed to heal. These unexpected acts of sympathy and compassion from my colleagues and, more so, my manager, were what sealed my loyalty to 7.ai.”
Empathy. Empathy. Humanity.
That manager’s act of kindness and intuition—that, right there, to its core, was empathy. It only goes that there is no guidebook for caring for your employees. In fact, it can never be done by the book; by strict adherence to the rules like the number of bereavement leaves as per policy.
It all starts from being what we all are—human. And then, it overflows in wave after wave of positive effects. Who Loren is at work now gives justice to this said domino effect.
“Today, as a manager, I consciously pay it forward by making sure I see my team as people first, direct reports second. I genuinely value what they value.” – Loren Avellana, (position) from 7.ai
The quote above is the real deal when it comes to what makes great workplaces great. Employees must be treated as people who lead actual lives outside of work and realistically feel emotions regardless of where they are.
With that said, it’s of utmost importance to allow people to bring their whole selves to work and treat them just as Loren’s manager did—with no qualms and contradictions, just pure, genuine care.
That and more naturally come when companies espouse people-first leadership and high-trust cultures such as those found in Best Workplaces™ like 7.ai.
24/7 Customer Philippines, Inc. (7.ai) is a Great Place To Work-Certified™ company! Click here to view their Certification Profile.