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04.05.2022 Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)

Bringing your whole self to work

Bringing your whole self to work

We have been conditioned in the past to create a separation between our personal lives and professional lives. That’s why so many of us have found that we aren’t bringing our whole selves to work.

We feel as if coming to work completely as ourselves, giving our honest opinions, and being vulnerable with colleagues might put us in embarrassing situations or in the worst case scenario – could end up with us losing our job. 

However, bringing our whole selves to work is much more about feeling comfortable expressing ourselves, and not feeling that our personalities need to be repressed in order to be successful at work. 

Let’s discuss below:

What does bringing your whole self to work mean?

A lot of the time bringing your whole self to work gets confused with unprofessionalism, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s discuss some different ways you can frame bringing your whole self to work. 

Bringing your whole self to work essentially means feeling comfortable enough to show your whole personality. However, this doesn’t mean that employees can talk about anything inappropriate – the basic office etiquette still applies. 

Being your whole self at work is generally linked to psychological safety in the workplace. Having a team that encourages and works on psychological safety means the team will feel safe enough to have creative conversations at work. They’ll be able to propose ideas without the fear of being judged and give their opinions on how the team should move forward. The team will also be able to give constructive feedback to their team lead or manager about any changes they’d like to see within the department, or overall company, without feeling uncomfortable. 

It’s important to remember that encouraging your team to bring their entire selves to work isn’t only up to them. As with any changes within a company, it works better coming from the top down. Having a leader that is open and presents their true self will trickle down into the team and foster an environment of trust and commitment. 

Here you can find our dedicated articles on what sort of leadership style you have, and how to become a more empathetic leader. 

What bringing your whole self to work doesn’t mean

Most of the time, when people think of bringing their ‘whole self’ to work, they assume that means talking about their personal life. However, as mentioned above, oversharing is not the same as being your whole self. 

If your team feels like they can’t be open and honest at work, they are essentially repressing their personalities. This can be detrimental to their mental health. If this is the case, you may notice some of the following:

  • A lack of productivity.
  • Their well-being is diminished and they’ll feel “boxed in”.
  • They may act distant and not give as much input to group conversations.
  • They will try to say the “right thing” instead of the truth.
  • There is a higher possibility of suffering from burnout and stress. 

Why does being your whole self at work matter?

Giving teams space and confidence to voice their opinions and ideas, and allowing them to be naturally vulnerable will encourage the following:

  • A better sense of wellbeing and stability at work.
  • A stronger feeling of trust and collaboration both within teams and across the organisation.
  • A stronger sense of job satisfaction.
  • Higher working engagement and creativity.
  • Lower rates of burnout and stress.
  • Feelings of empowerment and ownership.
  • Better team relationships.

It’s also great to know what each of your individual team members is like. Do you know their personality types? Having this knowledge will allow you to better understand how they work similarly and differently. 

Maybe you have a mix of introverts and extroverts within your team. It’s probably true that they’ll all have different working styles when in the office, or maybe they’d prefer to work remotely or in a hybrid setting? Some of them may like to have constant status-update meetings, and others will only feel the need to check in once a month.

Once you have this type of information, you can allow them to work in the way that is most productive for them, and therefore the organisation. 

The employer’s role in fostering authenticity at work

As touched on above, culture rolls downhill. Leading by example is possibly one of the most important aspects of building a successful organisation. 

Leaders and managers should communicate what they’re trying to do by encouraging their teams to bring their true selves to work, and explain how it will be beneficial to the team. 

If you, as a leader, display authentic management and show your personality in the office, teams will have a greater sense of trust and value. Employees tend to want to be more proactive, creative, and effective at work, so displaying these traits will rub off easily. 

If a leader of an organisation isn’t being their authentic self, the team won’t feel enough trust, value, or safety to be themselves. In short, this challenge isn’t possible at just the team level, everyone needs to be involved. 

5 ways to encourage your team to bring their true selves to work

There are plenty of ways to encourage entire organisations to bring more of their true selves to work. Here are five of our favourites:

1. Firstly, create a fun and engaging environment

To have a team that works well and can produce fresh ideas consistently, you firstly need your team to feel comfortable together. The first step of this process is to have your team get to know each other on a personal level. 

To do this, the first step would be to organise some team building events. If you’re looking for team building activity ideas, or you’d like to become more aware of your team’s personality types, then you can check out our article on creating team events specifically for introverts.

Another way to do this is by ensuring your current company culture is diverse, and accepting. This could be done by putting a focus on hiring for culture add rather than culture fit, so that employees feel as though they’re represented regardless of who they are. A step further could be by introducing an employee resource group into your business. You can find out more about the benefits of an ERG in our article about just that!

In a diverse and accepting company culture, employees are much more likely to feel as though they can bring their whole selves to work.

2. Conduct regular check-ins

Organise daily morning meetings to make sure each team member is aligned with current projects and tasks. Use this time as an opportunity to discuss any blockers that might be stopping the progression of work and how to resolve these issues. 

In addition to daily check-ins, it’s also important to conduct weekly, or bi-weekly, 1-on-1 meetings with each team member. This gives managers a more in-depth look at how each individual is feeling, not only at work but also in their personal lives. This, of course, massively affects things like motivation, productivity and overall happiness. 

Doing these check-ins makes it much easier to catch stress building in team members early, and fix the issue before it turns into burnout. It will also breed feelings of trust between team members and team leaders, helping to increase creativity, openness, and honesty. 

3. Give recognition and appreciation

What’s the difference? Recognition is positive feedback based on performance, it’s related to our work. Appreciation is about recognising the value of people, it’s about who we are. 

We have to see and acknowledge teams as humans, not just what they do as workers. This leads to trust, and people feeling valued, appreciated, and seen. This then fosters better connections and better performance. 

A good way to do this is to do something like ‘winners of the week’ to discuss both good work that’s been completed. You can also celebrate great communication or teamwork that has been displayed.

4. Make time to celebrate organisation-level achievements

Once a month or so, it’s great to show the entire organisation the impact that each team has on a larger scale. Doing this publicly and regularly will easily boost feelings of motivation across the company and encourage better cross-functional collaboration. 

This is also a good time to remind the organisation of the company’s values, mission, and vision, so everyone stays on the same page and works towards the same goals. 

Events like this encourage your team to celebrate together, and bond over their achievements, in turn bringing them closer together. If everyone feels their talents are not just welcomed, but celebrated as part of a team, they’re more likely to open up.

5. Encourage failure

One of the best ways to succeed is to first fail. However, if a team never see their superior openly fail or make mistakes, they won’t feel comfortable putting their bigger ideas out there and following through with the more risky projects. 

Want more management tips?

Why not try our leadership style quiz to find out more!

Try it here

Encouraging failure is the same as encouraging success: if you don’t try you won’t know. Having a team that fails often means having a team that learns fast and adapts. This leads to better motivation, productivity, and creativity. 

The above steps will all lead to having a more present and authentic organisation; creating fun environments, keeping up with regular feedback meetings, giving recognition, showing appreciation, celebrating different achievements, and encouraging big ideas. 

By doing the above you’ll find you’ll have a more creative, productive, and motivated team, as well as higher employee retention and less-stressed team members. If this is something you’re interested in, why not move on to our next article about hiring a mindfulness officer.

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