Office colleagues congratulating happy woman excited by good news online.

Finding love and worth at work

29 June 2022

The article at a glance

Amelia Dunlop, Chief Experience Officer at Deloitte Digital, bestselling author and Cambridge Judge Business School alumna (MBA 2003), shares her advice on the ‘worthiness gap’.

Amelia Dunlop, Chief Experience Officer at Deloitte Digital, bestselling author and Cambridge Judge Business School alumna (MBA 2003), shares her advice on the ‘worthiness gap’.

Amelia Dunlop.
Amelia Dunlop (MBA 2003)

For Amelia Dunlop (MBA 2003), 27 May 2010 will always be a special day. She gave birth to her daughter in the front seat of the car on the way to hospital. When she turned on her phone to tell her parents the happy news, she was greeted with a flood of congratulatory messages. “How did anyone already know?” she thought. A moment later, she realised the messages were not about the newborn baby, but about the news that had come out that day that she had just been made partner in the management consulting firm at 34 years old.

This story brings to life the combination of personal and professional events that Amelia discussed in a recent CJBS Perspectives video discussion on Leadership in Unprecedented Times, hosted by Dr Thomas Roulet, Associate Professor in Organisation Theory and Deputy Director of the MBA Programme at Cambridge Judge.

What is the meaning and purpose of work?

Amelia’s career path could be called an unconventional one as she combined a background in sociology, theology and business. She studied sociology and psychology at Harvard, before completing a Master’s in theology at Boston College, because, as she said, “She had so many questions about meaning and purpose”. A summer internship with the Monitor group, a global strategy management consulting firm, brought her into the world of business where Amelia enjoyed the combination of academic and practical, and real-world problem solving. At Cambridge Judge, she wrote her final MBA thesis on the morality of capitalism, tying together her academic, personal, and professional interests. She credits her time at Cambridge Judge for broadening her perspectives, introducing her to lifelong friends from all over the world, and giving her the opportunity to explore why we work and what we work to accomplish.

She currently serves as the Chief Experience Officer at Deloitte Digital, where she is leading the movement to “elevate the human experience”. As she says: “Alongside the roles of the CMO and Chief Sales Officer, there is a need for someone thinking about the experience of your clients or customers across their entire journey and asking what might better look like.”

Why do so many of us feel unworthy at work?

Amelia recently published her best-selling book entitled Elevating the Human Experience: Three Paths to Love and Worth at Work. She explained she chose the word love deliberately to challenge; to evoke the idea of flourishing in the workplace, and its necessity given we now spend more time at work than at any time in history.

In the book Amelia identifies a “worthiness gap”. After conducting a study of 6,000 people in the US, Amelia discovered that although there were variations between males and females and different races, nine out of 10 people said it was important to feel worthy of love, but about half struggled to feel worthy in a workplace context.

Three paths to close the worthiness gap are:

  1. the messages we send ourselves
  2. the impact we can have on each other as allies, and
  3. the responsibility for creating a community where we can spread values within an organisation.

Bringing your authentic self to work

As part of the discussion, Thomas asked Amelia her thoughts on what more could be done to encourage people from all backgrounds, including historically marginalised groups, to bring their authentic selves to work. She shared, “I don’t think it’s our responsibility to lean into these systems that marginalise individuals but to redesign them and deconstruct them to help make it possible that everyone could show up with their authentic self.”

How to lead with a more human style

When asked for approaches to enable someone to feel their worth, Amelia replied: “There is no silver bullet. Often at the end of a very long day I’ll think about who it is that I want to text, who it is that I want to send an email to, to say ‘thank you’ and be as specific as possible. As leaders in organisations we do have the responsibility to lead with a more human style. I would encourage people to take stock of themselves because it’s really hard to be empathetic with somebody else if you’re not already being empathetic with yourself. I think there is a certain amount of acknowledging our own need for growth and reflection, then we can think about how we can start to give that away.”

COVID-19 is making us re-evaluate our lives

No organisation has been immune from the “great resignation”, according to Amelia, as people re-evaluate what’s important to them, especially in the wake of COVID-19 (coronavirus). “My hunch is one of the lasting impacts of the pandemic and this whole hybridisation of the workplace will be the emphasis put on not just work product and output, but how is work contributing to our sense of meaning and purpose.” Amelia’s next book, The Four Factors of Trust: How Organizations can earn lifelong loyalty with co-author Ashley Reichheld is due out in November.

Launched in April 2020 in response to the tumult of the global pandemic, CJBS Perspectives: Leadership in Unprecedented Times is a video series organised by the Alumni & External Engagement team at Cambridge Judge. The series features globally prominent business leaders discussing timely and interesting business topics and themes, as well as a view on how they and their organisations have coped, and even thrived, in challenging times.

Watch the video interview between Amelia Dunlop and Dr Thomas Roulet