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In last week’s
email, we explored authenticity at work in an (my) attempt to explore what we
mean by this term and how we can become “more authentic”. This week, I wanted to take a look at how and
why we adapt and flex our behaviours at work and to think about what this means
for our authenticity.
Behaviours – what
Our behaviours are
the external manifestation of our whole being. It can be helpful to think about this using an iceberg analogy.
The top 10% of the
iceberg, the visible bit, is our behaviours. This is the bit that sits above the water for everyone to see. The 90% of the iceberg which is hidden
represents everything else – our values, our upbringing, our experiences, our
culture, our beliefs, our purpose, etc.
The stuff below the
surface drives our behaviour and because this “below the surface” stuff is
different for each of us as individuals, so our behaviours are different. Our behavioural patterns are each as
individual as a snowflake (aw!).
Whilst there are
models which can tell us a bit more about our behavioural styles, we shouldn’t
see our behaviours as set in stone. Despite the fact that there is some predictability around our
behaviours, they can also be different on different days.
What drives “out-of-character”
Whilst the stuff
under the surface has a big influence on our behavioural style, it can also
drive “spikes” in behaviours that may appear incongruent to an observer.
An example would be
when someone accidentally “steps on” one of your values.
A while ago, I was
working with someone who was a natural micro-manager. He was normally quite good at affording me the
autonomy that I need (independence is in my top values). However, when the business revenues dipped,
he started to revert to micro-managing. My normal behavioural style is quite laid back, affiliative and
non-confrontational. But when my value
of independence was “stepped on”, I became assertive and stubborn.
This worked for
me. We were able to openly address his
challenging (to me) behaviour and get back to a more harmonious working
In addition, our
behaviours can be influenced by what is happening to us in the moment which
could potentially be impacting our emotions and mood. I can behave quite differently when I’m
hungry for example (apparently!). Or
when I’m tired or when something sad has happened.
These spikes and
fluctuations are normal.
adaptations and flexibility
people have a great influence on our behaviours too. In this previous article on the DISC
behavioural model, I talk about adapting our behaviour to suit our
environment. Whilst it’s possible to
adapt our behavioural style for short bursts, it is uncomfortable to adapt them
significantly and over the long term.
This is where
workplace culture is key. As a people
person, with a somewhat extraverted behavioural style, I would not enjoy a
process driven work environment with little people interaction – believe me I
tried it! Similarly, a data-driven
extravert would find an environment full of people and conversations equally
This, however, does
not mean that we can’t have behavioural flexibility. Behavioural flexibility occurs when we adapt
our behaviour in shorter bursts in order to match (or at least get closer to)
other people’s styles. This helps us to
build rapport and influence.
flexibility is important and does not mean we’re being inauthentic. In fact, it is a trait worth developing as it
improves relationships a great deal.
What to do now
I feel that I could
write several emails about this topic but am going to rein myself back in
now. The previously mentioned article
actually has some good action points so I’m going to leave you with those if
you’d like to explore this further:
If you'd like to
explore your behavioural style and what it means for you, drop me a line and we
can chat about how to do so!
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