‘22% of employees feel that other team members would judge others for being different’.
(CIPD UK Working Lives survey)
We all tend to want to fit in and be liked, and so we can mould ourselves to fit a relationship, a team, a company. This is the Chameleon Effect. We find that this is almost always a subconscious reaction. And when you combine it with the insecurity that we all feel and our subsequent self-consciousness it can add up to conformity.
If we are the chameleon, we tend to mimic postures, mannerisms, facial expressions, and other behaviours often unintentionally. And so it can feel like it is happening to us and is out of our control. Most of us aren’t even aware of it until someone points something out. I can remember my daughter coming home from primary school in the early years like a totally different child after each half term or break. It drove me crazy. She was losing herself, her distinctiveness, and sometimes her hard-won manners! (Not any more!)
Last year I spent many hours supporting people who had found themselves out of a job. I offered two free iAM’s a week with a debrief to help. Many of the debrief conversations centred around interview success. We explored questions like, ‘Tell me about yourself’. The normal answer people give is a raft of their job roles, experiences, family situation, education etc. All to try to prove their competence. What we worked on was answering these questions using who they are, their unique distinctiveness, their iAM. The CV shares the skills and experience basics. Once you get to the interview stage, your skills and experience are checked with a few example questions, but it is actually you that the interviewer is trying to find out more about. Your character, how you connect with people, what drives you? And how aware of all of this you are!
Our #beyourselfatwork survey shares that 100% of us feel that we have to prove our competence at work. Combining this with the Chameleon Effect and our insecurities, does it add up to a fear of being different?
For us diversity and inclusion is about being yourself at your best and appreciating others for their distinctiveness, all whilst actively helping each other to belong and work together. Belonging by the way doesn’t always mean that you have to agree! We have to foster a belonging environment that breeds challenge and courage as well as harmony and wellbeing.
67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor when considering employment opportunities, and more than 50% of current employees want their workplace to do more to increase diversity. (Glassdoor)
Organisations with above-average gender diversity and levels of employee engagement outperform companies with below-average diversity and engagement by 46% to 58%. (Fast Company)
Often when we think of diversity, we also think of LGBT and BAME. But this excludes so many. What if real diversity was about you using your distinctiveness actively and being yourself at work?
A recent CIPD survey of over 100,000 LGBT people in the UK found that ‘23% had experienced a negative or mixed reaction from others in the workplace due to being LGBT or being thought to be LGBT’. BAME employees were found to be more likely to say the identity of background can impact the opportunities given to them at work.
Is the colour of our skin, our sexual orientation etc not totally irrelevant? What if our unconscious chameleons, insecurities and prove it strategies were contributing to the restriction of opportunity for everyone at work, including ourselves?
Last month I ran a webinar for 450 young adults just starting off in their careers. We elicited two distinctive positive personality characteristics, iAM Values. Over 97% of the group agreed that when they were amplifying these unique traits at work that they were more inspiring to others.
Your distinctiveness is your character, your magic. You may not always feel the same as others or a perfect fit, but if we blend ourselves how will others really get us? How will we make the biggest difference through our working lives?