100% of people feel that they have to prove their competence at work”

(2020 Global #beyourselfatwork Study)



Is “professionalism” restricting your happiness at work?  The fact that we feel that we have to prove our competence includes a competent persona.  The challenge is that a professional persona not only changes often negatively how we come across to others, it also reduces trust and psychological safely and causes inconsistent levels of happiness. All restricting how you make a difference at work.

A study done by Princeton last year found that once a person makes about $75,000 a year, income no longer has an effect on happiness at work. So, what does affect our happiness at work and how can we all create a new professionalism in this time of opportunity?

All the following factors are in our control and affect our happiness at work;

  • Making a difference to business results and people.
  • Creating a fun and positive environment.
  • Being close to those we work with and fostering a sense of belonging.
  • Being our real selves, without guards or self-consciousness.

In my work it is incredibly rare that I come across people free of a work professional persona.  And yet virtually everyone I talk to wishes that their manager, leader and peers would just be “normal”.  We wonder why workplace culture can at times feel restrictive and confining.  How much of this are we all unconsciously creating through pretence?  Actors and actresses of professionalism.

Years ago, I sat in a meeting with a group of people from another business, a few peers and my manager.  I began a creative debate to brainstorm and innovate in our work.  It was exciting. The energy rose.  People wrote things on flip charts.  Plans were hatched.  Smiles abounded.  After the meeting, my manager chastised me.  Why?  Because as the idea bouncing heated up, I had shifted posture and sat kneeling on my chair, rather than “sitting professionally”.  The plans we made that day created real innovation, over a million pounds in revenue. I did not care how I sat, how they sat and what my manager thought.  The feedback on the session from the other business was huge, they pushed the boat out to really help with the projects that we had created, and I am still warmly in touch with them today.  Would we have got the same result sat up straight, correcting our words, over thinking our personas or worrying about what each other thought of us?  By being “professional”?  No!

An iOpener Institute for People and Performance report shares that happy employees:

  1. Stay twice as long in their jobs as their least happy colleagues.
  2. Spend double amounts of their time at work focused on what they are paid to do.
  3. Believe that they are achieving their potential twice as much as less happy peers.

In a challenging economy innovation, productivity, creation and brilliant supportive culture is a great asset.  What’s amazing and exciting about that?  It all starts with you!

So, I ask you,

  • What is professionalism to you in how you are seen by others?
  • What do you think others perceive about you in their reality when you are like this?
  • Challenge and question your professional persona. If you see these traits in others how warm, happy and free do you feel with them?

Practice letting go.  Be you.  Watch the magic happen.