How the “Liminal Space” Of Election Day Can Help Your Team Flourish

On this Election Day in the US, you might experience similar feelings to those seemingly-endless moments following the slow climb of a roller coaster – a mixture of terror, anxiety and guarded excitement as you wonder what’s going to happen next. Regardless of whether you live in the US or not, you might be experiencing similar feelings throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Such moments of uncertainty, discomfort, and – not to be forgotten – opportunity, are known as liminal spaces, and we experience them throughout our professional and personal lives.

Like hallways, lobbies, waiting rooms and other physical liminal spaces, these liminal spaces are transitional and sometimes transformative: a threshold into an unexplored territory. But these spaces can last for a while before moving into the next stage: think of pregnancy, divorce, a reorg at work, a new product launch… and, yes, a pandemic and an election season. Sometimes these spaces have an undefined beginning and/or ending, adding additional emotional complexity as you sit in the tension of “no longer” and “not yet.”

The heightened emotions and awareness that comes in these liminal spaces often leads to something revolutionary – brand new ideas, new insights, and new perspectives that were not available before. The massive cultural shift to working from home, which seems likely to change the world of work forever, came from companies’ innovation during a liminal space. On a more individual level, an employee who’s leaving an organization will sometimes drop an eye-opening idea or insight that impacts how their team works together way after they have gone.

So how is this relevant for building community in your workplace this week?

This Week’s Tip:

Honor the “liminal spaces” that you, and people around you, are in.

  1. Take notice of tension, discomfort, and other emotions you are currently feeling. Pay attention to ideas you get during this liminal space, and devote some time to exploring those ideas more than you might usually.
  2. Pay attention to team members and colleagues who are in liminal spaces themselves (above and beyond the election and pandemic spaces we are all in). Listen closely to their ideas and comments, ask them to expand on their thoughts, and take some time to reflect on them yourself. What are the ideas and pieces of wisdom that could be the seeds of some new growth for you, for them, or for your organization?

Let us know how you honor the liminal spaces in your life in our Facebook group. We’d love to hear from you!

Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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