What to Share of Your Inner Self at Work

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In case you haven't noticed, there's a huge market out there for woo, even in the world of professional consulting. It can be parapsychology, pseudopsychology, or just plain fake-deep nonsense, but we'll turn to just about anything to help us get ahead at work. There's more to the inner working-self than crystals and candles, though, and knowing more about it can actually help us in the material world.


Two studies released earlier this month look at the different ways we can and should reveal ourselves to our colleagues (in a professional, not-creepy way, of course). The first, from Ohio State University, investigates who you should talk to at work about your career ambitions. Some earlier research has suggested that it's better to keep your personal goals to yourself at work, so as not to diminish your drive to achieve them. Instead, you should talk about your best possible future: "[I]n most cases, you get more benefit from sharing your goal than if you don't — as long as you share it with someone whose opinion you value," said lead author Howard Klein.


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Meanwhile, at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, researchers looked into whether employees perceive any barriers when asked to "be creative" on the job. "When people are being creative, they're not just solving problems," said study author Jack Goncalo. "They're actually revealing something deeply personal … that's not a benign instruction." Ultimately, if teams want more creativity, it's important to build in safety nets for employees — especially the safety to be weird and to fail.

Being a professional doesn't have to mean disconnecting from your inner self. In fact, you're much more likely to succeed when it's encouraged to bring that to the table.