How to … be yourself at work

by 06 Mar 2007

Struggling to be authentic and have a successful career can create much stress and unhappiness. These days low employee engagement scores and levels of ‘presenteeism’ at work are quite regularly reported. Scores as low as 36 per cent have emerged from some major financial institutions. This says that not many people are fully ‘present’ even when they are on the job. So what’s going on?

For a woman, there are many things that can keep us from being fully present at work – concerns about relationships, children, bosses, ageing parents, finances, fitness and so on. An inner war can be raging.

Underneath, there is something far deeper at stake – self-betrayal. When we compromise to the point where nothing is left of our needs, values and ambitions, we suffer. Symptoms can be: dragging yourself through the day, getting weepy at the slightest criticism, fits of angry frustration, weight problems and withdrawing from people.

The real issue is that inside us all, men included, is a very strong urge to do our best, be our best and create the best. That drive won’t let us off the hook. When we settle for less we start to lose our self-respect. So what to do about it?

Know your needs

We all have the same needs, we just have different strategies for meeting them. Try better strategies for getting those needs met. Be kind to yourself.

Align your mission

What do you want to achieve that the company also wants to achieve? Without this alignment you will always be wondering if you are in the right place.

Know what motivates you

Often companies get it wrong. Teach your leaders what you need from them for you to stay motivated in your career.

Know your true worth

Put a dollar figure on it. What do you want to achieve and where do you want to be?

Go for gold

Change the culture of the workplace by uplifting your own energy. It takes courage if you are in a generally negative environment, but you must do it. You are the one who suffers first if you let yourself get caught in the coffee pot gossip and lose perspective. Be happy and have fun.

Stay with objective reality

Stress is caused by our interpretation of what is happening. What evidence do you have to support your or others’ views of what is happening? Be prepared to stand out from the crowd and stick with your ethics.

Allow yourself to be an emotionally intelligent woman

If you look at an LSI or 360-degree profile of yourself and your company, you will soon see how much you are operating in the green and red sectors of passive/aggressive behaviours – essentially underdeveloped feminine and masculine energies respectively. Sometimes the warrior woman has to emerge. But if you can only see two alternatives –arch-witch or precious princess – you know you are caught in low levels of emotional intelligence.

Go for blue behaviours instead

Focus on what you want to achieve. Who are you at your deepest feminine core? Get a coach to help you if you’ve lost touch. Encourage yourself and others into greater visions and affiliative, team-like behaviours so that you all see results. Help others to better themselves by having coaching conversations.

Be prepared to have the challenging conversations

Learn how to construct them and practise them before you confront the issue. Know what is your responsibility and what is not. Refuse to rescue people from the life lessons they have the right to learn.

Listen to your heart

You will find that when you honour all of your magnificent talents and skills, your intuition will be stronger and you will sense its guidance more. It is your most powerful asset. How do you hear its quiet voice? Go with what brings you joy, pleasure and excitement.

By Indira Kennedy, director , Conscious Leadership