Do you wear a mask at work? Can you be yourself at work or even at home?

I’ve always had a dilemma!  I have spent much of my life trying to reconcile the needs of my interesting and satisfying professional life as a manager and consultant, with my spiritual and creative life as a seeker and a poet! For many years, I would rarely let my work colleagues know anything about my other interests!  Even now I exercise a degree of caution in who I tell and how! But life running my own business does mean that I have greater freedom to make my own choices! I was lucky, as I say above I enjoyed my life as a manager and I now enjoy the work I do as a consultant.  I could express myself in both my worlds!

But there are many who are far less lucky than me! Some of us cannot be ourselves at home, let alone at work!  And there is a penalty to pay from the time we spend adapting to meet the needs of others; time we spend pretending to be someone we are not! We can damage our health far more than we probably realise!

Dr Katherine Benziger is a pioneer and leading expert in her field. She has given three decades of teaching and research in psychology working to help people understand, value and use their own and other people’s natural gifts! Her work has focused on the proper and ethical development and application of personality assessment in the global business environment. Significantly, Dr Benziger prefers the term personality assessing, rather than personality testing, to describe her approach. She is keen to distance herself from the ‘personality testing’ industry, which puts the needs of the organisation ahead of the individuals who make it up!

Dr Benziger believes, in simple terms, that there are four different areas of one part of the human brain (the processing section or neocortex) that equate to four different types of human behaviour.

SENSING/BASAL LEFT The fundamental goal of the Basal Left/Sensation Type is to have the fullest possible experience of what is immediate and real, in order to be able to produce dependably. For this reason, the Basal Left is said to contribute or be responsible for the productive foundations in life.

FEELING/BASAL RIGHT The fundamental goal of the Basal Right/Feeling Type is to create harmony, connectedness and good will in the community. For this reason, the Basal Right is said to contribute or be responsible for the peaceful foundations in life.

INTUITION/FRONTAL RIGHT The fundamental goal of the Frontal Right/Intuitive Type is to discover the furthest reaches of the possible, in order to perceive new patterns, invent new solutions, or solve “theoretically insurmountable” problems. For this reason, the Frontal Right is said to contribute or be responsible for the adaptive in life.

THINKING/FRONTAL LEFT The fundamental goal of the Frontal Left/Thinking Type is to create rational order and make sound plans and decisions based on logical analysis. For this reason, the Frontal Left is said to contribute or be responsible for the Directing or Prioritizing function in life.

She believes that each of us is born with a hard-wired connectivity in one of the four areas which usually leads to how we interpret the world around us and how we react to it.  It results in personality styles, thinking styles, behaviour styles or communication styles.

Dr Benziger’s work has focussed on the common tendency of people in work, whether being assessed or not, to adapt their natural thinking and working styles to fit expectations of others.   This can apply both at home and at work! It can be a particular issue for women as many of us strive to be good partners, as well as successful mothers and supportive carers for our elder relatives! The result is tension and stress.  People become increasingly unhappy and ineffective, if they behave in unnatural ways! Much of Dr Benziger’s work focuses on dealing with these issues and the costs of this pressure to adapt.

Dr Arlene Taylor has been a leading specialist in ‘wellness’ since 1980, and has collaborated with Dr Benziger for much of that time.  Arlene Taylor’s work has confirmed, and builds on, Benziger’s observations about the cost of adapting!  Her work has included identifying anecdotally a collection of symptoms. The complete family of symptoms which Dr Arlene Taylor identified within PASS (Prolonged Adaption Stress Syndrome), as linked to Benziger’s work the “Falsification of Type”, are:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Hyper-vigilance
  3. Immune system alterations
  4. Memory impairment
  5. Altered brain chemistry
  6. Diminished frontal lobe functions
  7. Discouragement and or depression
  8. Self-esteem problems

So what does this mean for us as leaders and managers of groups of people at work? Remember that any personality assessment or psychometrics test can be skewed!  This is particularly likely if someone is practised at falsifying their type and spends their time continually trying to be someone they are not. Don’t rely solely on the results of such tests when you are recruiting. Get to know the people who work with you, and for you.  Make sure they know that you value difference in your team!  Don’t put pressure on them to confirm to a stereotype – value the differences between them!

We need to recognise that we are cannot all be good at everything and it is legitimate for us to do less well at some things and better at others! It is also OK for us not all to like or want the same things!   Don’t increase the pressure with unrealistic expectations of yourself and others. Be aware of the people around you and learn to recognise when they are showing the signs of stress!  It could be that they are trying too hard to live up to your expectations and that is causing the problem!  Make sure your expectations of yourself and others are legitimate and that they are reasonable!

You can find our more about Dr Benziger and her work at this link.