Unseen: How a Piece of Polystyrene Opened My Eyes to Invisibility

It was such a small, inconsequential thing – just a random piece of polystyrene – that stopped me in my tracks on my run yesterday. Next to it, under the bridge, lay a grubby, tattered sleeping bag.

Neither had been there the day before.

That piece of polystyrene, a makeshift pillow – halted me mid-stride and made my breath catch uncomfortably in my throat. In that moment, I hated that piece of polystyrene. It sat fatly, disconcerting in its neglect – a stark symbol of the people in my community who, up until that moment, had been invisible to me.

But it's not just under our bridges, on our sidewalks, and in the crevices and cracks of our community where people go unseen.

People go unseen in our organisations.

The cleaner who dutifully tidies the rubbish from your office wastebasket every day.

The waitperson in your airline club lounge who silently clears away your dishes as you complain loudly to your colleague about “how crap the latest initiative from head office is.”

The receptionist on the first floor you stride past every day on your way up to your office.

The faceless person on the other end of the phone you bark orders at each week.

The higher up you climb the corporate ladder, the more likely it is that these people become invisible to you. Unimportant.

It’s an uncomfortable truth, my friends. And it’s a truth that smacked me squarely in the face yesterday, when I stumbled across that piece of polystyrene. In the rush of our busy lives, as we go from meeting to meeting, not even pausing to look up from our devices while we pay for our coffee or as we pass the front desk on the way in to the office, we are at risk of failing to notice people we “see” every day.

Who are the unseen people in your organisation?

How can you "see" them more clearly?

What can you do to honour their contribution to your company?

They may not be the flashy, shiny, pretty or impressive “up-and-comer.” But they still matter.

Every person is important.

Each individual counts.

All people matter – whether they're the faceless person under that bridge, or the cleaner in your company.

Every human being contributes something.

Every human being is valuable.

Every human being deserves to be seen.

I ran under that bridge again this morning, searching for that polystyrene pillow.

But it wasn't there anymore.

And I wondered how things might have turned out differently if the owner of this piece of polystyrene had been seen, when it really counted.


April 21, 2017 AT 8:35PM

Great article Suzi, thank you

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