What If You Could Truly Be Yourself At Work?

For two years now, we’ve been holding common “community” conferences at our workplace to offer group members a chance to verify in about how they’re doing, not simply professionally but additionally personally. Each individual solutions a number of questions starting with a deceptively easy one: “How are you feeling today?” The remainder of us merely pay attention.

Picture: Roboheart

It was solely once we confronted a sudden disaster that I lastly understood why these conferences had been so essential. On a weekend final October, the 23-year-old son of one among our group members died unexpectedly and tragically. On Monday morning, I known as our group collectively in our convention room. The emotions that surfaced that morning have been uncooked — grief, bewilderment, concern, an acute consciousness of the fragility of life and the preciousness of our personal family members, and empathy for our grieving colleague.

The feelings ran even larger at a neighborhood assembly on the primary day our colleague returned to work a number of weeks later. Painful because it was for all of us, we have been in a position to create a container for our colleague’s heartbreak. Sharing our emotions additionally made them really feel much less burdensome. We held her, and holding her held us. It was cathartic, and that helped every of us to return on the finish of the assembly and focus once more on the work at hand.

It dawned on me that day how highly effective and liberating it’s to say precisely what you’re feeling, and to really feel actually listened to with out judgment. The impetus to carry neighborhood conferences got here to us from one thing known as “the Sanctuary Model“, developed by a psychiatrist named Sandra Bloom as a means to assist folks cope with chronically nerve-racking and overwhelming circumstances — largely on this planet of psychological well being.

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Increasingly, nevertheless, the on a regular basis expertise of company life could be overwhelming in and of itself. In addition to no matter stresses we deliver from house, together with not getting adequate sleep, we’re deluged with e mail, operating from assembly to assembly, skipping meals, and dealing longer and extra steady hours than ever. Is it any shock we’re struggling? Worse but, in most workplaces the unstated expectation is that we are going to verify any sturdy feelings we’re feeling on the door.

You know the drill. You put in your sport face if you stroll into work. “How are you?” a colleague asks, by rote and with out actual curiosity. “Fine,” you reply, mechanically, no matter the way you’re truly feeling. “How many of us,” Bloom writes, “have ever felt truly safe in a social setting … [meaning] cared for, trusted, free to express our deepest thoughts and feelings without censure, unafraid of being abandoned or misjudged, unfettered by the constant pressure of impersonal competition, and yet stimulated to be thoughtful, creative, spontaneous and solve problems?”

To the opposite, as demand grows, we really feel extra anxious, extra remoted, and extra susceptible. Each of us has a tipping level — a second once we really feel so depleted that we fall into survival mode. We’re usually unaware of it, however once we transfer from feeling calm and safe to anxious and below siege, we actually turn out to be totally different folks. Our struggle or flight physiology kicks in. In flip, our focus mechanically narrows to defending ourselves. We lose the power to suppose clearly and creatively, reply to others with care and consideration, or take into account the long-term penalties of our selections. Instead, we do no matter we predict we have to do to outlive within the second.


Community, I’ve come to deeply imagine, is the treatment. It does certainly have the ability to function a sanctuary — to guard, floor and encourage us, not simply in excessive circumstances, but additionally within the face of numerous on a regular basis challenges. Support in a neighborhood may give us the energy to forego quick gratification in favour of selections that uphold shared values, serve the collective good, and generate long-term worth.

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I’m satisfied that it’s the energy of our neighborhood at The Energy Project which has allowed us to turn out to be a really high-performing group. The security and belief we really feel with each other has freed us to focus our efforts on our mission. We have a small full-time workers — 14 of us, together with one other dozen working part-time — however we’ve been in a position to work at senior ranges in a few of the world’s largest firms. One cause is that we squander nearly no power on inside politics. We’re on this collectively, together with when one or one other of us is struggling and desires assist.

I’ve all the time considered our core group as a residing laboratory for the practices we train our purchasers — whether or not it’s the ability of renewal, or specializing in one factor at a time, or studying to deal extra skillfully with battle. What I now realise is that I’ve been overlooking one of the highly effective components of our work. Each of us is way much less prone to succeed by ceaselessly pushing to face out from the pack than by constructing communities of care and belief dedicated to elevating the bar for everybody. Transformation takes a village. None of us can actually do it alone.

What If You Could Truly Be Yourself at Work? [Harvard Business Review]

Tony Schwartz is the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the creator of Be Excellent at Anything. Become a fan of The Energy Project on Facebook and join with Tony at @TonySchwartz and @Energy_Project.