So those familiar with the Johari window will know exactly what I’m talking about.
Our facade is the face we show to the world, or just select individuals in most cases. Can you honestly say you are your true authentic self at all times? I can’t… so the first topic I want to discuss is ‘corporate image’. At work I act more professional, I use different language than when chatting to my friends. I even wear clothes I would not wear on any other occasion… and then quickly change out of them as soon as I arrive home!
It’s got me thinking… why do we do this and what affect is this having?
I started my working life at the age of 16 and back then I used to enjoy dressing smart and feeling like I fit into this professional world I had managed to break into. My mum is probably the main reason for this. Excited that I now seemed to be on the right path and taking life seriously my mum took me shopping and bought me a work wardrobe. Well not a full wardrobe we weren’t loaded but a few pieces that would last me the week in a new job. My first few roles I was a temp and mainly invisible to the rest of the workforce, popping up on the odd days when needed. I didn’t mind though, all that mattered was that I was sat there at the side of them earning a wage! My first legitimate income stream (I may have used to sell Ice Lollies 2 feet from our school Ice Cream man and make a profit at lunchtime. The lesson of that story was Mr Rossi does not like to be undercut).
I was told at school I’d never secure a “decent job” and here I was sat at a desk feeling all important whilst my mates were still in bed taking full advantage of the school holidays. As a youngster I was a tom boy and comfort was key. Looking at myself now in a professional environment looking like an adult ‘of sorts’ I thought… I’ve grown up and now’s my chance to be someone new. The old me hadn’t gone so well and I was ready to change that. I was ready to make my parents feel proud. I wanted to try and undo some of the stress and sleepless nights I had caused them and prove I had listened and taken on board their advice. We always hate to admit that our parents are right but mine always are! Sorry to my brother and sister but you know I’m right!
I told myself, this is the first day, of the rest of my life. And it was.
So for me the ‘professional facade’ as I see it, does have a lot of benefits. It can empower you, make you feel included, help you work better, focus more. Most businesses have a dress code so this facade is enforced upon individuals. It’s always an eye opener when you have a dress down day and people show a bit of personality. Some may even surprise you which tells me by adhering to this ‘professional facade’ we are hiding our true selves and therefore unable to fully understand and connect with our co workers.
After 10 years being totally adsorbed by the culture in our business I was made redundant. I had 3 weeks out of work before starting my new role. This was the longest I’d had off work since starting work 13 years before and I realised what I had been missing. During these weeks I was technically unemployed and didn’t feel responsible for upholding any corporate image. I was relaxed and able to be my true self. I realised then my previous environment had affected me and I’d become someone I didn’t want to be anymore. A lot had happened in a short space of time in my life and this had changed me. Changed me as a person, how I viewed the world and what I wanted from life, I re affirmed my values and knew I had to make some changes.
So when did I begin to question this ‘professional facade’?
Well only last month as it happens. I was putting together a workshop about first impressions for high school students I’m currently mentoring. My idea was to print images of people from all different roles and sectors and ask them to place the images under the sector they believed this person worked in, using their clothing to make the decision. I started with headers, Professional Services, Trades, Healthcare, Hospitality and so on. Under the header Professional Services I added examples such as, Council, Government, Estate Agents, Legal Advisers etc. I was drafting this on an evening and my partner sat at the side of me queried why I had used the word ‘professional’ in just the one heading. He quite rightly pointed out that he as a plumber provides a professional service to all his customers. This got me thinking, why do I only associate ‘smart clothing’ with the word professional? Would you instruct a solicitor who instead of wearing a suit was wearing a tracksuit or jeans and a T-Shirt? Would this display of personal preference be off putting or change your view of them? I’m not sure.
Do we use clothing to display an image expected by society and is this still required?
I agree in the past appearance played a big role and society was very segmented. You would expect different attire associated with different people. In the modern world with internet lifestyles, live streaming and reality TV we are now starting to see more and share more. The barriers are being broken down and we can gain an insight into peoples real lives and see who they really are. Social Media has helped people share not only their happy moments but also their trials and tribulations, we share more personal details than ever before and more and more people are feeling comfortable to do this. We are no longer hiding all the bad! Instagram and Pinterest have helped encourage people to share their personal style and we have seen the rise of the fashion bloggers, stylists and all the other creatives out there making positive changes in the world (yes I know some can be a tad annoying sometimes but it’s okay, if it’s not your thing just move on past and let them be). We are also seeing the pathway for the new rich kids, the ones making an income from YouTube and Social Media. The ones travelling the world whilst earning an online income to fund more adventures. It is actually quite surreal and amazing. These people can record a video in their Pyjamas and get millions of views, the world is changing, in fact it’s already changed and we need to start adapting to the new era.
What do you think? Do you have a facade and if so would you feel ready to drop it? Comment below…
This blog was originally written March 7, 2018 by Thirst4Development