Don’t Forget To Check Your Blind Spot! (At Work)
You probably spend more hours of your day with your coworkers than you do with some of your closest family and friends, but how well do you really know them? Certainly, the context in which we gain familiarity with each other at work is markedly different than the context in which we get to know people in our personal lives. Each workplace comes with its own unique set of rules and regulations that add subtle layers of boundaries to every interaction and every bit of information that we are exposed to. Did you know that the recognition of these knowns and unknowns can actually be used strategically to gain influence, grow relationships, and build more cohesive teams? This concept is illustrated well in what is known as the Johari Window.
The Johari Window (pictured below) was first coined in 1955 by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham.
The gist is that there are four states of awareness that describe the relationship between what what you know about yourself and what others in your workplace know about you:
Open/Free — Both you and your coworkers know these things about you.
Blind Area — Your coworkers know things about you, that you have yet to discover.
Hidden Area — You have not yet disclosed these things about yourself to your coworkers.
Unknown — Neither you nor your coworkers are aware about these facets of you.
Keeping these areas in mind, there are a few actions you can take to improve your sphere of influence at work.
Figure Out Your Blind Spots
You are putting yourself at risk if you’re unaware of your own flaws, strengths, or character traits. This can be best accomplished by actively seeking out feedback from those around you. Organizations occasionally will build this into their performance reviews in the form of 360s, or you can take the initiative to ask your own directed questions at your 1:1s.
Strategically use your private knowledge to build camaraderie with your coworkers. Research shows that extroversion is rewarded in the workplace. However, the quality of extroversion isn’t really as significant as the information and grounding points that extroversion often leads to. Essentially, when your coworkers feel like they can connect with you on certain topics or issues, they value you more, leading to an increase in your sphere of influence. This is not to say that you should be compelled to always share the intimate details of your private life with everyone in the workplace. Rather, you might consider attempting to find that unique mutual grounding point between yourself and each of your individual coworkers to serve as the glue for the relationship you have with them.
Strive for Balance
If you manage a team, consider using the Johari window method to construct a balance between the members of your team. As a leader, one of your goals could be to keep a close eye on the size of the windows for all members of your team. Newer employees will have larger hidden areas, and smaller open areas. If you guide them to help them balance these out, their niche amongst the team will slowly become more apparent. While this may happen organically as people get to know one another, new employees are often thrust into duties prematurely without the team really understanding their individual interests and strengths.