A group of office workers sit around a table. the two people in the foreground high-five.
ATD Blog

We All Belong

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Helping others feel connected, respected, and protected.

What is it that you and I can do to contribute to a sense of belonging in the workplace? Or in a training session? Wendy Gates Corbett, CPTD, addressed that issue during her ATD23 on-demand session, “You Don’t Belong Here. You’re Different!”

Corbett defined belonging as “the sense of security and support that results from feeling welcomed, valued, accepted, and safe as a part of something meaningful that’s larger than ourselves.” When employees don’t feel a sense of belonging, they feel disengaged, unmotivated, and tend to be silent, which contrasts with being more productive, innovative, and likely to stay with an organization when they feel a sense of belonging.

Through her research, Corbett (president at Signature Presentations) discovered three consistent themes: people wanted to be connected to those around them, as well as with their organization; they wanted to be respected by their peers and leaders; and they wanted to be protected—that is, they wanted to have trusting relationships.

Connected. What does being connected look like in the workplace? It means, said Corbett, feeling as though you’re being seen, heard, and that others are interested in you. Behaviors that spark connection include such things as saying, “thank you,” asking about non-work activities, sharing fun and funny anecdotes, and remembering the details of the lives of others.


Respected. Being acknowledged, appreciated, and valued. That’s what respect feels like, shared Corbett. She found that behaviors that exemplify respect include asking others for their advice, publicly acknowledging the work of others, making an effort to pronounce the names of others, and recognizing the knowledge and experience of others. Not only can all of us incorporate these aspects into our working environments but learning and development professionals can incorporate them into their classrooms.

Protected. Fairness, transparency, and trust are some of the indicators of feeling protected. It means employees are comfortable in saying, “I have a question,” “I’m having a bad day,” or “I have a different opinion.” In her research on this quality, Corbett asked individuals what it feels like to feel unprotected and vulnerable. She found that behaviors that made employees feel unprotected include their colleagues not standing up for them, being ignored, feeling overwhelmed, and not understanding something they think they should understand.


We can contribute to a safe, protected space by modeling transparency, walking away from gossip, standing up for an interrupted speaker, and helping balance deadlines and workloads if you’re a manager.

This was just one of the many on-demand sessions that ATD23 attendees have available to them throughout the conference. They’ll also be available, along with other recorded sessions, from May 29 through August 25.

About the Author

ATD23 News is your source for news, updates, and session coverage for ATD’s 2023 International Conference & EXPO.

Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.