Being “Human Size”

Jennifer Porter
September 29, 2022

So often we encounter people who dominate the space, they seem larger than normal, the way they speak (often a bit too loudly), the way they sit (taking up more than their fair share of the table), the way they walk (others feel like they need to make way for that individual).  They are probably the one who goes to a crowded cafe and gets served straight away, while I wait patiently in what I thought was a line, waiting to get noticed by the waiter.

Unfortunately, there tends to be a downside to this style.  Let’s call this person “Joe”.  Often other members of the team feel intimidated by Joe, sometimes even scared.  In some organisations, this attribute is “rewarded” with Joe getting promoted to a leadership role.  Typically, Joe will tend to prefer the approach of others like Joe, and will surround themself with similar types of people.  Others will observe that this behaviour tends to get promoted/rewarded and may try and imitate this style too.

Other members of the team may have a different style and personality, those who are quieter, maybe a bit shy or someone who prefers not to draw attention to themselves.  Sometimes these people tend to blend into the background, and may go unnoticed.  It seems like Joe and Joe’s circle have taken more than their fair share of the space, leaving not enough space for the “smaller” members of the team.

Inequality can start to creep into this team, with those taking up the space also taking up more than their fair share of talking time.  Their opinions and preferences get more air time, and decisions are made based on what is heard.  They are more visible and seen by senior leaders, resulting in getting more opportunities for projects, training and promotion.

Imagine if we were all just Human Size, not too big, and not too small, with everyone having an equal seat at the table, equal time to speak and at the same volume, equal space to spread out.  The diversity of thought and ideas would bring new and fresh perspectives to decision making and reflect the diversity of the whole team. 

It is a choice we make every day, how much space we take up.  If you are too big, then you are taking up someone else space and therefore diminishing them, and limiting their voice and opportunity.   If you are shrinking in the background, you have a right to your space and to be heard.  If we could all just be Human Size, what would that do to your workplace culture? It would nurture diversity and inclusion and spark creativity and innovation.

This change needs to come from the top, leading by example.  It needs to be part of Company values and evident in all communication, “everyone’s voice in valued”.  It needs to be clear in leadership training and development, with Human Size behaviours rewarded.  

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