Wearing Masks

July 29, 2015 by
Filed under: Uncategorized 

It can be interesting to watch people when you are grabbing a bite at a food fair, visiting a farmer’s market on Saturday morning, or wandering through a park in the evening. There’s a huge difference between these settings and what you see in many business environments. At the food fair, the farmer’s market and the park, nobody’s wearing a mask.

When we’re on ‘our own time’, there’s no need to be politically correct, and the result is visibly different in people.

We have it drilled into our heads early in our careers how we are supposed to behave in a business environment. There are expectations on how we dress, how we carry ourselves, how we interact with others. There’s an organizational hierarchy to respect, a pecking order. When we conduct business in a different culture, we need to understand different norms of behaviour, lest we offend our hosts. We can take courses in business etiquette, or we can stumble and learn from our mistakes. Either way, eventually, most of us conform to expectations.

There’s those explicit expectations that we can see, discuss and overtly manage. There are also expectations left unsaid, for the most part things that have absolutely nothing at all to do with the work at hand, but nonetheless things that are important to carefully manage. Religion, political leaning, relationship preferences are not raised on first meeting, there is usually a self-suppression that holds these taboo topics at bay.

In a growing number of business environments, these explicit expectations can become quite relaxed, sometimes disappear altogether. Some of the taboos may fade as well as you become more familiar with others in the workplace, though it is still a very rare business environment for these to completely disappear.

Where any of this exists, we’re wearing a mask – we’re behaving in a way that may not be congruent with who we really are. It may be as simple as having a ‘work wardrobe’ and casual wear, it may be something much more deep and complex. The more masking we do – the less we can behave in a way that is intrinsically who we really are – the less we can contribute our all to the environment we’re in. We can all get away with a little masking, like dressing a little more formally than we would like to, but too much comes at a price.

Think about it, think about your favourite experiences, the friends you like to hang around with, the things you like to do. Chances are you are in a place where you can put your mask aside and be yourself. Where you can let it all hang out.

Yes, some people end up masking in ways at home as well, at the place where we are supposed to be able to let things loose.

What masks are you wearing in the workplace? Are you masking anywhere else? What can you do to reduce the need for masks in your environments? Do you need to make a move to a new environment?

Most importantly, are you forcing others to wear a mask, preventing them from giving their all, without even knowing it? – JB

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