Articles and News

In Support of Authenticity


Something my clients often say about their desired work environment is: “I just want somewhere I can be myself and not have to pretend to be someone I’m not”.  When you see it written down, it seems obvious doesn’t it?  Who would want to work somewhere they have to pretend?  However, many of us feel that we somehow adapt ourselves in the workplace and have a “work” persona and an “at home” persona.

DISC and Team Dynamics
To ascertain why we adapt our behaviours at work, it’s useful to understand some basics around human behaviour.  Marsden’s DISC model is a useful way of doing this.  This looks at four predominant behavioural types – Dominant, Influencing, Stable, Compliant.  Whilst we all have an element of each of these types, our personal pattern can tend to be heavily influenced by one or two.

My own behavioural style is heavily “Influencing”, (High I).  This means that I am people-focused, optimistic, chatty, sociable and extrovert.  If you drop me into an environment full of other High I types, I would be very happy.  However, I also know that we wouldn’t get much work done because we’d be too busy having a great time!

I know that I need other behavioural types around me to get the right team dynamics in place to really achieve team and organisational results.  The downside is that I may find it difficult to work with these other types.

For example, take me working with a highly compliant (High C) behavioural type.  This High C is the direct opposite to a High I.  A High C likes to have all the information and detail to hand before taking a very well-thought-through decision.  A High I (me) will be more likely to go with their gut instinct, asking other people’s opinions and experimenting along the way.

I’m sure you can see that we would complement each others’ styles very nicely but that there may be points of friction in this working relationship.  The High C would find my lack of compliance and attention to detail very concerning and irritating.  I would find their need to supply me with ALL the details in every potential scenario overwhelming and exhausting.

So how can we make this work?

Adapting your behaviour
Depending on our environment, we all adapt our behaviour to a certain extent.  I know that when I work with a High C, I need to provide them with more detail than I would normally be comfortable with. When I work with a High D (Dominant) character, I can become more direct and less “fluffy”.  Equally I can become less flamboyant with a High S (Stable) person in order to gain their trust.
Dialling up my different behavioural styles from time to time, is fine and will help me to build really great working relationships.  However, adapting my behaviour SIGNIFICANTLY and over the LONG TERM can be very detrimental to my energy and stress levels.

This means that I need to make sure I am in an environment where I can safely and confidently behave in my natural style for the majority of the time, adapting for short periods where necessary.

However, we all know that this is not always what happens.

I worked once in an actuarial business which we can presume was full of High Cs.  I wasn’t familiar with DISC at the time, but I knew quite quickly that I was not a great fit in this organisation which was, quite rightly given the nature of the business, risk averse and process heavy.

When I realised that I didn’t quite fit, I did what a lot of us would do in this situation.  I elevated my “I” tendencies and became more chatty, more loud and less detail oriented.  I think that I was subliminally trying to bring the actuaries out of their shells.  It didn’t work!

Once I realised it didn't work, I started to get more like a High C.  I was quieter, more fact and detail oriented and not as "in your face" as I had previously been.  I was not happy!

This is what I call the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" response where you significantly adapt your behaviours so as not to stand out or be rejected by the cultural norms.  I once had a client who had been told by a line manager that she had "too much personality".  She had lived with the belief for a long time that she needed to dumb down her personality in the workplace as it was not appropriate.  We worked hard for her to find the right culture which would embrace her behavioural strengths and where she could finally be herself.

What can you do to ensure you find an environment where you can be yourself?
1.           Know yourself: First of all, it is useful to know your behavioural style and be able to know what sort of environment is your best fit.
2.           Talk about yourself: Tell your potential colleagues about your behavioural preferences and ask them for their opinions on how you'd fit into the team.
3.           Understand dynamics: Understand the similarities and differences between your style and the other styles.  Where do you need to make short-term adaptions in order to get things done?
4.           Call out difference in a positive way: When I work with a High C, I let them know about my style and how it's different to theirs.  I let them know that I really appreciate their style and how it complements my own.  Ideally, I also get permission that we can call each other out on extremes of behaviour and learn from each other.
5.           Look for diversity: The best teams and organisations will have a rich diversity of behavioural styles.  In these environments, they will be more open to different styles and it is naturally easier for you to be yourself.

If you'd like to explore your behavioural style and what it means for you, please do drop me a line and we can chat about how to do so!

If you would like this weekly blog sent directly to your inbox, as well as receive a copy of my “Top 3 Ways to Boost Your Career Happiness Right Now,” please click here.