Chain Reaction Foundation Ltd

The Danger of showing our true selves at work. - Part 1

by Margaret Bell | July 30, 2019

Being Truly Me

Interview situations require us to spin our skills and our attributes to make ourselves more appealing. Negotiations often hinge upon how well we can put our views forward and be unwavering all the while presenting a charming exterior to partners and opponents alike. In fact, most tasks in the workplace are based upon us acting a certain way -- being a certain type of thing -- or at least that seems to be the consensus view.

This is the extent of artifice in the workplace. This is why we do not feel we can be ourselves at work -- because, time and time again, we are told that we cannot and should not be. This could be a factor behind as many as 21% of Australians taking some time off with a mental health-related condition each year. The mental strain hiding our true selves, and of working constantly to keep this truth about our personalities hidden, is just too great.

And of course this is contradictory. Of course we want to be successful at work, and to have the attributes necessary to take us to the targets and objectives we set for ourselves, but we also want to be accepted -- this is simple human nature. So, we set about crafting a persona for ourselves -- one that we consider to be an optimal version of our self -- and in doing so we may hide who we really are. The possibility for being accepted -- truly, genuinely, accepted for who we are -- escapes us.

This concept was explored in a recent Huffington Post article by collaborative intelligence app developer Simon Confino, and contributed to by author Frederic Laloux. Mr Laloux in fact went so far as to say that many workplaces have fostered cultures in which it is "dangerous" to be our true selves -- cultures in which this kind of honesty would be a severe hindrance.

We've already looked at how this can lead to stress, strain, and a myriad of mental health issues, but what exactly does this mean for the Australian worker? It can mean considerable mental pressure, it can mean working too hard, it can mean burnout, it can mean reinforced feelings of our "true selves" simply not being good enough. All of this takes a heavy toll.

And of course, there is a toll to be paid by Australian business too. All of the above may lead to low levels of productivity, increased errors at work, and high staff turnover.

To put it simply, this situation can clearly be improved.  Over the next few posts, we are going to be looking at this in more detail, and questioning how we can break out of such a cycle of artifice and, for want to a better word, deceit, and the health issues this brings.

Margaret Bell, AM - Founder and CEO of Chain Reaction Foundation.

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