The Dog Ate My Homework

Do you remember all the lame-ass excuses we used to come up with for missing homework, or missing classes? And then, in the workplace, you always had a “meeting out of the office” rather than an appointment with the dentist or, God forbid, had to pick up a sick child from school?

Just the other day a colleague and I had scheduled a Zoom brainstorm and she didn’t show. I waited for a bit then signed off and sent a note. In her apology, she told me she’d had to take her cat to the vet as it had an infection.

My first instinct, honed by years of hiding what hot mess actually lurked behind the office door, was to think her quotidian concern somehow made her less business-like, less powerful. I know, I know, I’m a terrible person!

In the next seconds, however, I was struck by the realization that sharing this information about her actual, real, honest life, she had been elevated in my estimation because she is brave enough to tell the truth: that we’re not machines with no private lives behind the virtual background, that we shouldn’t be afraid of being judged and found to be human!

Another colleague, Megan (Meegan) McAllister, BBA, CPHR , works primarily in the field of psychological safety and I know she would say that a workplace (even if it’s your own) that won’t allow people to be themselves with all their quirks and varieties, isn’t safe.

And if it’s not safe it won’t be creative, it won’t be as successful as it could be and it won’t make you happy.

There’s another benefit to being yourself and it’s one that’s been coming for some time, accelerated by COVID’s upheavals. Your staff, your partners and your customers and clients want to know you, not just your title and office address, but who you are as a person. Increasingly we need that human connection and dimension to decide who to trust. If you don’t show people who you are, what you stand for and what matters to you, how can they know if your word is to be believed and that your motives are, if not pure, at least positive? Sharing is caring, right?

Like all good things, too much is too much so don’t overshare to the point of making people uncomfortable. That kind of untrammeled self-disclosure is what got us into the separation of work and life in the first place. Reintegrating the two will pay off at work and will relieve some of your stress about that fantastic balancing act we all perform, just because we’re alive.

Joanna Piros