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Why Wholeness in the Workplace is important. 

 February 22, 2021

By  Donna Woodrow

One of the frameworks that we're passionate about at Modo is the Reinventing Organisations framework. This is a framework that highlights a new kind of organisational model, often referred to as 'Teal organisations.' Teal organisations are led by leaders who have acknowledged the ways in which todays organisations are broken, and are open to doing things differently.

What a Teal organisation looks like completely depends on the organisation, because unlike most other organisational change frameworks, the Teal 'way of being' doesn't dictate what you must do, but instead it invites you to question, where are you now in your organisation? Where would you like to be? And what does your vision require you to do? Most importantly…whatever you put action to, that you action it in alignment with your vision and values. 

Reinventing organisations is not a set of procedures, and yet there are a few key things that teal organisations tend to have in common, or at least three areas that an emerging Teal organisation might be drawn to consider. These are Wholeness, Self-Management and Evolutionary Purpose. In this article, I'd like to explore a little more about Wholeness.

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In this article, we're going to discuss what it is to have wholeness in the workplace, what it means for employees and organisations, and some steps you can take to make your workplace one where people can truly be themselves, and why you might want this.

Individuals are seeing the benefits or hearing on the grapevine about organisations that are embracing Teal practices and so the decision becomes easy for an employee looking for a career move. They're making the switch to organisation where they can do what they're passionate about, all whilst being a little more themselves.

What is Wholeness?

If you imagine having 'wholeness' or being 'whole' at work, what comes to mind for you?

The first thing that came to mind for me was that it would mean 'I could simply be myself.' Wholeness meant not leaving any part of myself out of the equation. When I'm bringing my whole self, that means bringing my quirky and sometimes dark sense of humour, my crazy passion for my pets and animals and a really big open heart - to bring warmth to the sometimes cold corporate world. 

Wholeness compressed - Why Wholeness in the Workplace is important.

Many people's first reactions to this is to draw back in horror at the idea that their colleagues, let alone bosses might see them in their pyjamas, or be privy to their real sense of humour, god forbid they should see me cry. Which is kind of surprising isn't it? Because really, life happening outside of work doesn't care about your professional schedule. Breakups happen, deaths in the family occur and even exciting, life energising surprises like new babies arrive, yet we're asked to compartmentalise our lives - to leave those parts of ourselves in the elevator on our way into the building, where they will stay until you collect them on your way out.

Now I'm not saying that every organisation should have a Kumbaya circle at the start of every day - although this is exactly what some organisations need and adopt. I'm simply pointing out the fact that there has been an unspoken agreement for decades now that we need to leave parts of ourselves at the door before walking into the office each day, and what's more is that we still expect ourselves to perform at optimal capacity.

Yet how do I perform at optimal capacity when a large portion of my energy is in use, trying to hold back my emotional self - the real me?

If you think I'm mad to consider that I could bring all of me, my heartbreaks and my biggest talents to the workplace, then read no further - what I have to say is probably not for you. But...if you're even a little bit curious about how this is possible, then I invite you to read on to learn more.

Why is wholeness important in the workplace?

Energy is unleashed

It takes a lot of energy to hide all of the parts of ourselves that the professional world has deemed unacceptable. Having to wear different clothing and wear a metaphorical mask to hide evidence of our passionate inner selves is draining. Keeping ourselves 'under wraps' so to speak is not only uncomfortable, it burns up energy in our minds, hearts and bodies that could be better spent elsewhere.

What happens when we allow ourselves the freedom of wholeness, and we accept our colleagues in their wholeness too, is that enormous energy is unleashed. We no longer concern ourselves with what we need to hide, and we put this energy to use on the exciting projects at hand.

Our direction and purpose become clear

Now that we're no longer hiding what we really think and feel, we are invited to listen to the voice inside us. When we listen to our inner voice -  we get direction about where and how we're driven to work. Instead of trying to conform to an outdated model of how we should 'be' in the workplace, we're invited to consider what else is possible.

When we have an environment that feels safe to be ourselves, we can now share who we are, what excites us and what motivates us. If I am excited about a project that another team is working on, I can voice my excitement and willingness to be part of the team. If I am struggling with the project I've been assigned, I can have a clear and proactive discussion with my team leader about my challenges and how to overcome them, instead of the old way of being where we suffer in silence hoping that it won't always be like this, or that it would be unprofessional for me to bring my opinion to my role. 

Quotation marks image white 03 - Why Wholeness in the Workplace is important.

How do I perform at optimal capacity when a large portion of my energy is in use,
trying to hide the real me?

We build stronger, more effective teams.

Now that we can bring our whole self to work, we can actually build real connections with other people. No longer are we required to connect in the lunch room over the weather and vague answers to "how was your weekend." Once we've built a container of safety and trust with one another, we can now share our passions, our hobbies, our greatest desires and even our fears with one another. Teams connect with greater depth, and small talk becomes real talk. 

This unlocks a teams potential and gives them the freedom to create solutions and innovate together - because hiding from each other is no longer getting in the way. 

To summarise, when we invite wholeness into our workplace, just three of the benefits we may experience include;

  • Our energy is unleashed.
  • Our direction and purpose become clear.
  • We build better connections with our peers. 

What is required to create the space for wholeness?

So if you've gotten this far, you might be wondering... but how? How do I get my whole team to be vulnerable enough to be 'real'? I wrote another article titled Are you fully yourself at Work where I mention that trust is a key component for allowing wholeness in the workplace. This is because people only 'show up' as themselves when they feel it is safe to do so. I recommend reading that article and becoming curious about how you could create this safe environment for your team. However trust isn't the only thing we require to step into wholeness, because even when there is trust, we also need a willingness to be vulnerable, to be seen for who we truly are.

Hint, hint: modelling what wholeness looks like to your team is a great first step. Contact us ​if you're not sure how.  

There are other steps that come into play along this journey, such as knowing or asking the following questions;

  • Does the team want to relate in this way? 
  • What are the fears getting in the way?
  • What unspoken assumptions still encourage people to wear a social mask at work? (E.g. You must hide your tattoos, it's not okay to personalise your desk space etc.)
  • Where are my boundaries and how real am I willing to be as a leader? 
  • What kind of practices can we do to encourage and welcome wholeness in the team?

Conclusion

The way we've been doing things is no longer working, newer recruits are looking for ways to express themselves and their creativity in the work that they do, and even seasoned professionals are finding it harder and harder to live behind a mask, seeking instead for purpose and meaning in what they do. The days of convention and compliance are being ushered out by wholeness, and the new way of working recognises the gifts that each team member brings with their personality. 

It doesn't matter if you are a team member, middle management or the leader of an organisation. We encourage you to start a conversation with your team about what Wholeness looks like for them, and how you might collectively create a space where you all feel safe to be wholly yourself at work. 

Need support to have this conversation? At Modo, we partner with organisations on this journey to provide an extra pair of ears and eyes to bring to light some of the things that are not being said in your organisation or some of the things that might be getting in your way from actualising as a team or as an organisation at large.Curious about whether your organisation is self-actualising? Check out this article.

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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