How do I find my work tribe?

Deborah Wilson


17 | OnTalent

As social beings, all of us feel the need to belong. Even if we are not aware of this consciously, the desire to belong is part of being human. Some people may immediately think of their family and friends when they think of the word ‘tribe’. I’ve seen the trajectory of thousands of careers throughout the years and in my view, being in an environment where you can genuinely thrive involves finding and working with your tribe. Small companies can be a tribe, while larger organisations typically comprise tribes within a bigger tribe.

So, what is a tribe?

The first Google search result reads:
Tribe: a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.

I see and support many professionals who, put simply, are not working with the right tribe for them. This absence of having a tribe can happen over time as we evolve both personally and professionally. Sometimes, people were never in an ideal tribe for their needs, and that feeling of not belonging has only exacerbated over time. In other cases, people were initially supported by their tribe, but those feelings have changed over several months or years.

Struggling to get your head around the notion of a tribe in the workplace? My use of the term relates to the people you work with or for who ‘get you.’ You may call them ‘your people.’ Feeling comfortable being you, just as you are, without having to put on a mask or change anything about yourself. An environment where you are among like-minded colleagues working towards common goals. As you can imagine, finding the right workplace culture for you is a crucial part of this picture.

The impacts of COVID-19 and remote work have changed the workplace landscape considerably for many. You may not be spending as much time in the same physical space as your coworkers these days, but don’t underestimate the power of connection. You may not be able to go to lunch with a colleague, but you can always pick up the phone for a chat. Remember, people are not solely workers; we are human beings with social needs.

Most of us have experiences we can look back on that didn’t feel quite right. (Don’t you love hindsight?) Usually, that unsettled feeling you get in your body before the logical mind takes over (thoughts like, I really need this job, or I’ve got no other options) is a good indication you haven’t found your tribe—yet! A change in leadership or your job role can turn existing tribal practices on their head.

How to find your tribe

Your values are at the core of everything you do. Once you’ve identified your values, you can search for a workplace that aligns with your norms and values. What is important to you? What is a deal breaker for you in terms of workplace culture? I encourage those I support to constantly engage in activities that enable self-reflection (journaling is the easy go-to for most people).

If you are a job seeker, research the organisation you are considering working for. What are their values? What is their mission and vision?  If you’re working in a company that doesn’t feel like the right fit for you, incorporate the lessons you’ve learned into your career planning. Transparency with yourself is key here.

People move on from jobs for several reasons. In my experience, one of the most common reasons for high staff turnover is that people never quite feel like they truly belong in their workplace. And at the end of the day, we all spend an incredible amount of our lives at work and/or working. No one wants to dread going to work daily or constantly feel on edge. By doing your due diligence and finding the perfect tribe for you, you’re setting yourself up for career success in the long term.

Deborah Wilson is a Thought Leader and a Career Strategist. She takes a personalised approach to strategic career coaching, career transitions, mentoring, and leadership development. Deborah provides expert guidance for individuals while supporting organisations through change and connecting people and purpose.

Call Deborah on +61 403 779 746. 


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