Bringing Your ‘Whole Self’ to Work
Posted on 28th April 2023 at 07:02
By Nicky Mikulla, Client Solutions Manager at Iridium
“I was asked what I value in a workplace culture recently and I had to think really hard about my answer. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that the responses I would give to this question would change over time, depending on my circumstances.
The roles I have undertaken and my life situations have evolved massively over the years, but the one constant has been the ability to bring who I am, at that moment of my life - from new mum to career ladder climber - into the office, and be accepted and valued. Not feeling I must mask the real me has been fantastically rewarding, however, it’s not always the same story for everyone.”
What happens when employees feel they must mask their true selves to fit in and get on?
“This can include anything from neurodiverse traits, such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia, to specific personality types, mental and physical health issues, and family circumstances.
When an individual cannot bring their whole self to work and feel they must hide certain aspects of themselves, it can be incredibly draining and demotivating, which, surely, no business wants.
Real strengths come from difference and fostering an environment where everyone feels comfortable to just be themselves - resulting in a happy workforce where only the best is brought out in people.
To make this happen, a culture must be created at every level where people can feel 100% confident to vocalise what changes they need to make their working lives better, and know, without a shadow of doubt, that the company will listen and want to act on this wherever possible. For neurodiverse people, it may be suitable adaptations within the office, like quiet areas and different hours. For a menopausal women, it could be reasonable adjustments to their working pattern or role…but in truth this is the case for everyone, every persons needs will be different”
Not everyone wants to party hard
“It seems obvious, but there are still some businesses out there where old hangups exist. And this doesn’t just mean where people feel they must be stuffy or restrained to thrive. For example, this can also apply to those companies with the ‘work hard, play hard’ ethos. Not everyone wants, or is comfortable, to party hard, stand up and present at a team bonding event, or get involved with the company table football championships - and shouldn’t feel as if they don’t ‘fit in’ if they don’t.
The thing that makes you fit in should be feeling comfortable to be yourself. And this could change over time. Our personal and professional needs are evolving, and if a business wants to maintain a productive workforce, it must nurture and support the changing and unique needs of every team member.”
Businesses must challenge themselves
“My advice to business leaders who want to create a strong culture where people can bring their whole selves to work would be to ask themselves some hard questions, such as… How often do people come to me to ask for something to be changed? How flexible are we (this does not simply mean allowing people to work from home)? Do we ask people for their opinions often enough? Are team members encouraged to talk to us if they’re unhappy?
One final thing to note is that adult diagnosis of autism, dyspraxia, ADHD and other neurodiverse conditions is on the rise, proving that there’s a big chunk of people amongst us that have been masking the traits that come with these for goodness knows how long.
Yet, this doesn’t affect their ability to do a good job - quite the contrary - so it’s time working cultures across all businesses are established to allow introverts, extroverts, parents, non-parents, young, mature, the neurodiverse, neurotypical alternatives, absolutely everyone, to bring their whole selves to work. Then sit back and watch them flourish.”
Please connect with Nicky.Mikulla@ir77.co.uk to share your experiences or opinions around bringing your whole self to work.
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