Posted by: healingtheworkplace | May 19, 2008

Building Community in the Workplace

Why not build community in the workplace? Good question! In this crazy world of ours people are feeling increasingly isolated and lonely. The other week a friend of mine told me that her workplace was a very lonely place. How is this possible? How can one be lonely surrounded by people and activity?

There are many possible reasons of course. The organization’s culture–the values, beliefs and norms that shape its behaviour may be at fault. In other words, the organization may not place much value on human relationships.  

Perhaps there is too much to do and not enough time. Whatever the reasons given you can be sure that the organization does not consider the building of community as a priority.

Building community in the workplace may sound odd to you at first. Isn’t a community different from an organization? The answer is both yes and no!

Obviously there are some major differences between a community and a workplace.

BUT organizations that thrive have learned the importance of valuing people for their unique contributions. At the same time they provide opportunities for people to contribute to something greater than themselves.

 Most of us live in some sort of community and in North America at least we have freedom (within limits) to do as we please within our communities.

 We can live where we want to, choose the schools that our children will attend, participate in different religious groups and associate with people who have similar interests and values.

Our places of work may also be situated in the communities in which we live.

The biggest differences between a workplace and a community is the reason for its existence. 

The workplace is where I go to produce a service (some people produce a product) for which I am paid. 

Typically there are fewer freedoms in the workplace.

Workplaces are organized in such a way as to “manage” people’s behavior in order to produce the goods and services mentioned above.

In short an organization has to be economically viable. This is the same for both profit seeking and not for profit organizations.

In 1997 I wrote, “a small but growing number of organizations are searching for new designs in order to find a balance between the objectives of the organization and the needs of the organization’s members”.

At that time a number of books were written about the subject. Two books that I particularly like are:

1. Community Building: Renewing Spirit and Learning edited by Kazimierz Gozda and

2. Building Community: The Human Side of Work by Manning, Curtis and McMillen

Both are good references for anyone wishing to delve into this topic further.

 Have a great week!





  1. thanks for the book recommendations – please let me know if you have any more book, author, article recommendations as I start my research for my dissertation! thank you!

    • HI Angela, here are two more books that relate to building community:

      – Building Community Anywhere: Finding Support and Connection in a Fragmented World by Carolyn R. Shaffer and Kristin Anundsen published in 1993
      – Community The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block published in 2008

      You might also want to check out books and articles about community development.

      All the best!

  2. Thank you!

    Wishing you all the best!

  3. Hi Lesley,

    Found this article while researching for my Master and am wanting to reference this post. It is quite important that I get the reference right, so was wondering what I should put as Author as my supervisor asked for the full name of author.

    Many thanks


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