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Why We Should Embrace Being Human at Work

We're all human. We all make mistakes. We all succeed. It's okay if it happens at work, too.

We are all human.

Human means we are emotional and analytical. We can be gross and repulsive, and we can be beautiful.

We fall in love and we break hearts. We can be cold-hearted and we can be empathetic.

We can be the reason for evil in the world, and we can be the reason for good.

We will try. We will fail, and we will succeed. We will make mistakes.

In the workplace, though, we often treat this inevitable phenomenon as unacceptable.

But to what end? If we are not allowed to make mistakes, we might as well employ our world with a bunch of robots.

There are arguments that we already have already started replacing humans with robots, including a book called The Glass Cage by Nicholas Carr. I read this book for a class in college, and I recommend reading it to learn a dystopian perspective of our increasingly automated society.

Robots eliminate human error. They are precise and accurate every time, unless there is an error in the machine. They work mindlessly, never tire, and they have no personal life. There will be no family emergencies, no sick days, and no reason to not work. They are the perfect employees.

And also the most boring coworkers.

Humans are not perfect. We are extraordinarily flawed.

And that’s what makes us special.

Maybe we’re not perfect. Maybe we need to make mistakes in order to learn. Maybe we do have our moments of high emotion, and we need to take time off of work for our friends and family. We will never be able to work tirelessly and apathetically like robots.

A robot will also never be able to have a meaningful conversation with you. They will never respect you the way loyal employees do. They will never be able to relate to you or your feelings, and respond comfortingly.

A robot will never be there for you like a human can be. Feelings cannot be programmed.

(Maybe that will one day be proven untrue if Star Wars becomes reality, and C3PO is no longer just a fictional character. But that is in a galaxy and a future far, far away.)

The best employers are the ones that don’t expect us to be perfect.

Everyone makes mistakes–it’s the only way for us to grow. Employers probably want their employees to be perfect, but the best ones understand that we are human.

An incredible trait of humans is that we can learn from our mistakes. I’ve made mistakes on the job. We all have. My best employers are the ones that correct me when I make mistakes, and explain the logic behind the correction. And as a human employee, I make every effort not to repeat that mistake.

Difficult employers don’t allow us to make mistakes. Everything has the utmost importance, and any little error is monstrous. While some workplaces have less room for error, it is difficult to take risks when the margin for error is extremely small. When there is less room for error, taking risks is more difficult, which doesn’t allow employees to grow.

When employees don’t have room to grow, that hurts the employee from gaining new skills, and the company misses out on potential value that could have been fostered in the employee.

We should embrace being human at work because being human is what makes us all unique.

We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and we can all work together to be something great. We can help each other grow, or we can hinder each other.

But we can’t do either of these things if we don’t have room to be human. In fact, the moments when we are being imperfectly human tend to be the best moments.

These are the moments when we mess up, and we realize our true character is in how we handle those situations.

We learn who will help us when things go wrong and who will blame us. We learn who will panic when things go wrong, and who can remain calm. We find who we can depend on, and who is quicker to let us drown. We learn who we can trust.

We also learn who can laugh at themselves when they make a fool of themselves.

This can be the difference between an imperfect, human moment and an imperfect, human moment that we can all look back on and laugh about.

That’s not to say that every mistake is humorous. Errors that cost millions of dollars or put people in danger are generally not something to laugh about.

At the same time, a lot of imperfect moments are humorous. As long as no one is getting hurt, lots of mistakes have humor. We just have to look for it. It’s all in our perspectives and our attitudes.

That’s what separates us as humans from robots.

That’s why we should embrace ourselves as perfectly imperfect humans.

About the Author

Lindsey Zawila

Lindsey graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015 with a B.A. in Global Studies and Communications. She studied abroad in Austria (Summer 2013), Switzerland (Spring 2014), and India (Winter 2014). Her previous internships include the World YWCA in Geneva, Switzerland, the Foreign Service Institute at the U.S State Department in Washington, D.C., and CNN International in Atlanta, GA. In her free time, you'll find her reading, writing, making jewelry or friendship bracelets, sewing or refining her photography skills.