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Career connect: The value of bringing your whole self to work

  • Posted on March 7, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
Avanade employees playing foosball

You’ve seen the trend among corporate thought leadership encouraging employees to Bring Your Whole Self to Work. You don’t have to search far to find books, articles and TED talks that share that title. One office I visited even created wall-sized murals painted with the mantra. An organization that encourages its employees to bring their whole selves into the office rings as progressive and forward-thinking. When we start comparing across technology companies – whose bread and butter is progress and forward-thinking – the bar suddenly becomes much higher and it becomes necessary to dismantle this progressive rhetoric and hold it accountable. Let’s explore.


Why would a company want you to bring your whole self? One answer might be that it sounds good and costs nothing to implement! On a deeper, although still practical level, top-tier companies are often competing to attract and retain the same top-tier talent. What one company promotes, another, competing firm, is almost compelled to promote in order to check the same box and stay competitive. Those are both still pretty shallow reasons to bring your whole self to work, though. Probably the most compelling reason is that it’s a better experience for you!

 

People have this idea in their head of the ideal consultant, leader or employee. We might imagine this person to always be decisive, dress a certain way, carry themselves and speak a certain way. Maybe who you are aligns perfectly with this ideal archetype of business acumen – that’s great! If not, however, trying to fit into that mold is probably not only challenging and tiring for you, but stifling aspects of yourself prohibits you from bringing what you bring to the table. When you spend some portion of your day in a disguise probably one of two things will happen – you will start to be that inauthentic version of yourself full-time, or you will become dissatisfied and disengaged at work. Everyone can relate to hiding or toning down parts of themselves at work, or any social situation, to fit in or until you gauge the environment enough to determine if it’s safe to come out. It takes an analysis of a company’s culture and employee experience to gauge if the Bring Your Whole Self to Work movement took root.


I’ll share my experience. A company I worked for in the past had a well-advertised vision of diversity and inclusion, but individuals at that organization tended to have a “work persona” and an “outside of work persona.” The vision did not stand up to scrutiny as evidenced by the employee experience and social behavior. There were important parts of myself that I did not feel comfortable sharing with my colleagues because I did not want to hurt my career or buck the trend. If the work you’re doing isn’t intrinsically motivating, being in an environment where you feel like you have to stifle your being is a great way to get burnt out. Since coming to Avanade, most of that has gone out the window! The majority of people I’ve met here behave authentically at work. There is a culture that promotes the individual, the community and the client. The most successful people I’ve met here aren’t afraid to think creatively, admit when they’re wrong or share aspects of their personal lives with those around them. This January, I brought my girlfriend to our local holiday party and I swear – no one even batted an eye. I’m not sure how this culture at Avanade developed, but it seems self-perpetuating in nature – greater buy-in begets greater buy-in. Probably the most compelling reason a company would want you to bring your whole self to work is that it creates a community of engaged and creative employees that are ready to bring their Whole Self – including their creative and forward-thinking ideas- to work and to our client sites.

 

Too often, the conversation around bringing your whole self to work dies with the mantra and there is no momentum behind the words to promote a meaningful shift in company culture. This leaves the employees feeling advertised at and uninspired. I don’t know how it started, and it’s not something that can really be measured other than gauging an individual’s experience, but the employees at Avanade promote the vision to bring your whole self to work. In turn, work feel a lot less like work.

 

Interesting in working where you can bring your whole self to work? Check out our careers page for open roles.


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