Living in a world that is continuously in motion, we must often take time to catch our breath and reflect on this journey that we call life. This journey is defined by our individual or collective experiences and where we feel we should be heading.
There are many expectations created, both internally and externally during this ride. These expectations drive our philosophical approach to life and ultimately shape our behaviour.
The behaviours that we exhibit are displayed in our personal lives and our professional lives. Behaviour specialists categorise them as our self-image and our work mask.
Our self-image is our authentic self for the most part because its how we truly are when nobody is watching. Its who we prefer to be when the spotlight is no longer on us and its also with whom we feel most safe. It is us being vulnerable, shy, insecure, uncertain, and scared.
In contrast, our work mask (especially in the professional world) is the projection of the best version of ourselves that we would like to portray to those we work with. It’s us at the appearance of being our most intelligent, most confident, most attractive, most appealing, and most desired. All characteristics and traits we have been reared to believe, make us stand out and become successful.
Prior to the COVID pandemic in Nigeria, majority of working professionals operated from physical office locations, where these work masks were prevalently displayed. The effect of a plethora of individuals continually striving towards the best version of themselves is that we hardly saw any unique personalities shine through.
This presents a paradox because a fundamental component of human behaviour, especially in the workplace, is driven by recognition, which motivates individuals to want to succeed and have a sense of accomplishment. In a statement by Charles Kurose, a professor at George Washington University, in his research paper “MOTIVATION, BEHAVIOUR, AND PERFORMANCE IN THE WORKPLACE: Insights for Student Success in Higher Education” indicated that “Social cognitive theory sees motivation and behaviour resulting from an ongoing, dynamic interaction among cognitive, social, and environmental variables. Cognitive factors such as goals, values, and efficacy beliefs all influence motivation and the decisions people make about how to act. Likewise, social norms and expectations can affect motivation and dictate behaviour, as can the enabling or disabling characteristics of one’s physical surroundings.”
Therefore, is our work mask a function of the environment we find ourselves? Can it change with time, position, organisation, environment, and shifts in social consciousness?
The irony is that the new normal has created a prism for new workplace behaviours. The reason being that we are not as required as before to spend so much time in these confined spaces, with other people that we must be productive together. Remote working from an area of safety is beginning to bring about more authenticity from people who would ordinarily act following the workplace environment and culture.
2020 has shown that the world has changed, whether we like it or not, accepted or not. Change demands adjustments to behaviours. The Art of Changing behaviour is a skill that must be mastered, for The Future of Work, where Innovation, Creativity, Problem Solving, Critical thinking, Interpersonal Skills, and a Growth Mindset are required for survival.
It is going to take a lot of introspection and self-analysis to break away from the dependencies that the work mask once provided, and focus on developing a unique sense of self that truly shape the outcomes of our careers. This can be achieved by conducting psychometric assessments, to get an idea of the current state of behaviours with recommendations of specific development and learning interventions that will modify behaviours.
Socrates once said; “The unexamined life is not worth living”. No truer words could ring more, especially at a time like this, when we must begin to change the behaviours we defined ourselves in previous work life. To be open to new and innovative ways of conducting ourselves for our authentic selves to truly take shape.
Senior Managing Consultant