The Work Mask Epidemic and the Urgent Need to Expand Human Capacity

That comfortable, invisible work mask your employees wear into work each day is killing their creativity, initiative, innovation, motivation, and significantly limiting their contributions and impact, and your business performance. Why is this?

The work mask is sly, powerful, and is designed to protect you from workplace-related stresses. Putting it on may seem like an effective coping mechanism. The reality is that it drains your energy and your contribution tank and seems to also cleverly misplace the recharger. You begin your workday with a net deficit in your “contribution account” not to mention the energy depletion you experience. You start as a “less than” version of your best, full self.

Unfortunately, that’s not the worst of it. Your self-protective, “just help me navigate and survive the day” mindset causes disconnection and shuts off access to any motivation, inspiration, or initiative to contribute new ideas or inspired discretionary effort. It suppresses generosity, curiosity, hope, and compassion. Growth disappears from consideration when in survival mode.

It gets worse. The impact is compounded when you consider that it robs you, your coworkers, your clients, and the organization of the benefits of any inspired and discretionary creativity, initiative, innovation, and motivation they might have willingly and interdependently brought to creating the best solutions and providing the best service for your clients. Any amplification or ripple effect you might have created never get started.

This study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that workplace incivility directly and significantly impacts the bottom line.

It’s estimated that workplace incivility costs companies $14,000 per employee due to lost productivity.

Expanding Human Capacity

Not only is this not sustainable for either human beings or the success of your business, but it is also unacceptable and needs to change…NOW.

What if you chose to meet your human capacity needs by creating greater value and productivity with the brilliant employees you already chose to hire? What if creating greater value for your customers and other stakeholders was no longer about the prevalent business practice of “more with less” – that is getting more done with fewer employees, many of whom are burned out or have serious health impacts. What if, rather than extracting value from our employees, we created even greater value with them without having to reduce headcount? What if, by creating environments of trust valuing humans first, we could tap into the latent human capacity and full, best contributions within your current employees? What if you already had the “more with less” capacity and productivity you needed within your walls and awakened to how to activate it within yourself and your current employees?

Net (Real) Human Capacity = Your Personal Human Capacity – Work Mask Effect – Opportunity Cost of Untapped Inspired Contribution (self and others)

Latent Human Capacity = Work Mask Effect + Opportunity Cost of Untapped Inspired Contribution (self and others)

Side-by-Side Leadership

As my great friend and Founder of the #HumansFirst Club, Mike Vacanti says, “We are at an inflection point. Outdated workplace and management practices need to change. Our mission is to create that change.”

This change will happen not through top-down management but through side-by-side leadership. Side-by-side leadership that is inclusive, diverse, brave, and ignites and accelerates a shift in business culture to value humans first. Leadership from all levels, by those who courageously choose to no longer accept what got us here, and who will inspire and attract like-hearted leaders to take us where we need to go.

When you choose to retire your work mask, and courageously and vulnerably decide to wear your Superhero cape each day, you say no to the status quo and yes to creating better.

Leadership is a team sport. I am inspired to co-create more human work environments, more conscious leaders, and better human AND business results with like-hearted people from all over the world. We ignite this evolution to “better”, and sustainably better, starting with YOU. When you choose to retire your work mask, and courageously and vulnerably decide to wear your Superhero cape each day, you say no to the status quo and yes to creating better. That symbolic article of clothing represents your unique human greatness and the vast and amazing contributions and impact you bring with it. When each of us brings our true full, best self each day and trusts that they can, then and only then will CEOs, boards of directors, managers, leaders, and all employees see the benefits from choosing to value humans first and implementing #humansfirst leadership and business practices that ignite the latent human capacity in their employees,

CEOs, boards of directors, managers, and leaders at all levels, I challenge you to be first. Leaders go first. Leaders demonstrate confidence, vulnerability, resolve, and strength when going first and choosing to be the change they want to see. Leaders connect with and work side-by-side with their coworkers, earning trust, calmly navigating the rough waters of change to earn the right to joyfully celebrate the rewards of evolution. You cannot afford to wait any longer for someone else to go first. You, your coworkers, your family, and our one global human community need you to answer the call. Now.

Please share your comments below. I welcome constructive dialogue on this topic.


Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly is a visionary connector, community-builder and human development specialist who helps people and teams unleash their human greatness so they can create better together. Brian believes in each person’s unique human greatness and the power of harnessing this to amplify impact for teams, communities, and organizations. Brian is an ICF Accredited Coach whose three-decade career spans business, technology, finance, and human development. He is co-author of the book Becoming You to be released later this year. Brian’s encouraging energy and relational and strategic approach invite the inclusive business leaders and teams he works with to expand their perspective to strengthen their belief and their ability to create better together. Brian works with clients to understand the conditions that create greater contributions, fulfillment, and success and then works with them, using proven frameworks, to help them create those conditions through the lens of their strengths. The results are greater self-awareness, confidence, connection, teamwork, creativity and innovation producing better human and business results. Brian is the host of the We Can Do Better Conversations series, which invite inclusive conversations on topics relevant to bringing greater humanity to our workplaces, communities, families, and relationships. Brian serves on the Executive Board for Overcoming Odds where he helped the Executive Director with board development, strategic business planning and expanding the reach and impact of the nonprofit’s mission. Brian has also served on the Washington DC metro area chapter Board for several culturally-based National nonprofits focused on professional and leadership development.

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