Many people have their “real” selves and their “work” selves. We pack away certain parts of our personalities and slap on our game face when we go to the office. Even ask yourself why? In some ways, this is well and good. We don’t want to bring that fight with our spouse or rage against our noisy neighbor into work. But it’s a fine line – the darker experiences and emotions we all experience are part of who we are. It’s what makes us more interesting.
Organizations and leaders that create cultures that deny the dark side that pretend everything is up-up-up all the time, often end up stifling employees and performance. You get (ostensibly) cookie-cutter employees who deliver cookie-cutter (aka mediocre) results. Who strives for this? It’s not ideal.
There’s a better way. Driven by social media, people are blurring the lines between their public and private selves. We want to be known and recognized for who we really are, quirks, faults and all. When people put their pain, disappointments and depression out into the public square, the shame diminishes. Hiding and pretending waste a lot of time and energy, and stifle talent and creativity. The very things smart leaders want to unleash when hiring and retaining top talent – this includes “best fit” workplace culture talent.
Here are 5 Ways to Build a More Open, Exciting, Creative and Productive Workplace:
1) Get Real. It’s not always necessary to play Pollyanna and pretend that everything is sweetness and light at your office. First of all, no one believes it. Second, it’s simplistic and insulting to your people, who are complex, with light and dark moods, and want to be treated as well-rounded individuals with lives and stresses outside the workplace. So keep the rah-rah to a minimum. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be positive and upbeat, but keep it honest and leaven it with an understanding that we all carry some baggage.
2) See The Whole Person. This is particularly important for HR Technology that can be utilized during the hiring process (and after as well). Social media and Big Data gives leaders amazing new tools for understanding people in all their complexity. It’s not just a resume and an interview anymore. You can Google anyone and get a much more well-rounded, 3-dimensional understanding of who they are. You’re not looking for perfection, you’re looking for specific talents, the right attitude, the ability to work well with others and deliver results. If that brilliant software engineer has a second life as a lip-synching karaoke singer, hey, how cool is that? Celebrate it!
3) Talk Their Talk. Leaders and managers must learn to customize their communication. The more you know about a person, the more effectively you can talk to them. There may have an employee who suffered a recent trauma or depression, such as the death of a parent or spouse, or a recent triumph, like running a marathon. In addition to specifics, people just generally listen and process information differently. Some leaders “get it” with just a few words; others need a detailed explanation. This talent for talking calls upon emotional intelligence, patience, and a little homework. HR can help here by compiling a personality or Big Data profile map on employees.
4) Be Yourself. This goes for everyone in an organization. The more true you can be to yourself, the better you will perform and the happier you’ll be. This doesn’t mean you broadcast your political views or court controversy or ignore manners and consideration. It does mean, to the greatest extent possible, that you are relaxed, open-minded, and comfortable in your own skin at work. If you’re a little bohemian, fine. If you’re straight-laced, that’s fine too. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to the human animal. There are only our true, wondrous, idiosyncratic, sometimes-up, sometimes-down selves. Bring it on – and bring it into work.
5) Caveat: Set limits. The workplace is not the place to exercise your id. Certain subjects are and should be off limits – like sex and off-color jokes. There are limits of course. Leaders, managers, and HR teams should set their own limits on the information they cull about people. If someone wants to hold onto a rigid work persona and it works for them, let it be.
The bottom line here, as always, is performance. Results. The good stuff. Bringing out, and bringing in, our best selves. So encourage everyone to be themselves. It’s about unleashing talent and true potential. Freedom to be who we really are is a beautiful, liberating thing – even at work.
And Remember – People Hire People – They Do Not Hire Resumes.
A version of this post was first published on Forbes.