I’ll never forget the looks on people’s faces walking down the monochromatic hallways. 

Often robotic, expressionless, lifeless, even after coffee. 

I’d pass a friend or familiar stranger and we’d exchange a laugh, a pleasantry or muse about the weather and you could see a glimmer come back, but only momentarily. 

Our sparkle was gone. 

How could I tell?

I led employee onboarding. I’d see every fresh face to join our organization and tell them about how great it was to be them. I noticed something different in their eyes – there was a sparkle, a glow, an endearing flicker that made me envious because I had it once. 

I started feeling icky about telling them how great our workplace was because I wasn’t feeling it and slowly my program included a more deliberate, strategic message with a subtle warning – “get out before it’s too late”. 

You laugh, but I’m serious. 

My orientation began to include: how to bring your whole self to work; how to speak up and be heard; how to do great work when you’re blocked by the status quo; and how to manage when you realize the job wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I wanted these newbies to be themselves. I wanted them to show up everyday and do the job they were hired to do – with pride. I didn’t want them to lose the sparkle in their eyes. 

I wanted to reclaim that feeling for myself.

I learned that it’s a terrible feeling when you realize you lost your sparkle. 

It’s worse when you discover you could have done something to protect it.