Are You Fully Yourself, At Work? 

 August 24, 2020

By  Donna Woodrow

There's a problem with today's organisations. Actually, there are many challenges we face with our current organisational paradigm. But in this article, I'm focusing on the challenges we face when we show up to work wearing a mask, and I'm not talking about the COVID-19 pandemic kind of mask. 


I'm referring to the metaphorical mask we adopt, the persona we wear like a suit. We tell ourselves that we're doing the right thing by adhering to social norms, we've bought that nice suit and we're well trained in business appropriate behaviour, we even know the right kind of professional language that's suitable at work. But is this really getting us the results that we want? What kind of life are we creating for ourselves, if before we've even left home we're preparing to hide parts of our self behind a persona. And we feel that we're not accepted for who we are, for the next 8 hours. As we deny parts of ourselves at work, we are unable to show up in our wholeness. Wouldn't it be nice to be yourself at work? 

Workplaces without wholeness...

My experience after 10 years in the corporate world is that after a while, the mask becomes really heavy. When wearing the mask, I couldn't express my full potential, I was limiting myself to a small subsection of my gifts and talents. When I'd finally get home at the end of the day and relieve myself from the persona, I was exhausted. Exhausted from pretending to be someone I wasn't every day, exhausted from attempting to give my best in my role, all whilst using huge reserves of energy to keep my certain parts of my personality from showing up unannounced. 

Quotation marks image white 03 - Are You Fully Yourself, At Work?

What kind of life are we creating for ourselves, if before we've even left home
we're preparing to hide parts of our self behind a persona?

What else happens when we don't allow ourselves to be whole? Well, we can't truly connect with those around us. We try to network and build relationships by only sharing a small part of who we are and hoping that we find enough common ground to develop a working relationship.

More and more we are seeing burnt out employees and leaders, struggling to keep their mental health in check as they desperately seek to succeed in the workplace. So what happens? They start searching for something more meaningful, something that doesn't drain them, instead searching for something that makes them come alive. Some of the younger generations have seen the warning signs of generations before them and so seek to start their career in organisation that allows them the freedom to be themselves. And hence we see the emergence of start-ups and tech giants who offer their employees dedicated time each week to work on personally motivating projects, they encourage casual clothing and even invite pets to the workplace.

And so that begs the question, what does wholeness actually mean? What does wholeness mean to you? Here's a great clip from Frederic Laloux, Author of Reinventing Organisations - A framework that we employ when we partner with organisations who are looking to discover a revolutionary way of working.

It starts with trust...

Trust - Are You Fully Yourself, At Work?

One thing we have seen in the organisations we work with is that people will only show up in 'wholeness' when they feel it is safe to do so - when there is trust in the environment.  In today's world, this trust building starts with leadership. The current paradigm expects employees follow the direction of the leader, yet we know that simply asking our teams to 'relax and be yourself' is not enough, because people model behaviour, not verbal cues. If the leader of the organisation refuses to show up authentically and maintains a strict professional front at all times, never divulging who they are outside of their role, then what are the chances that the rest of the team will find it okay to do so?

Quotation marks image white 03 - Are You Fully Yourself, At Work?

People model behaviour, not verbal cues.

If you are a leader of a team or a business owner, the world is asking you to step up. The world needs your authentic leadership, and as we've discovered in the organisations we've worked with, this isn't always an easy task. There may be fears and resistance to changing decades old patterns of behaviour, yet we have also seen the incredible power that can be unleashed when those fears are overcome and the entire team feels safe and secure to give their whole selves at work. What results is often a profoundly more connected, creative and effective team.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can advance your organisation towards revolutionary new ways of working, and providing an environment that will retain the newest members of the workforce, please join us at our next live webinar on New Stage Organisations. Click here to register for this free event.

Donna Woodrow

Donna takes a genuine interest in the collective and personal growth of the human race and its individuals. Donna is a seeker who loves to travel and invests considerable time in her own personal growth. Donna is a professional coach and trainer, experienced Enneagram facilitator and the Managing Director and Partner of Modo Coaching & Training.

Donna Woodrow

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