Why self-awareness in the workplace is important

self awareness at the workplace

Self-awareness is the ability to perceive and understand the things that comprise one’s being. It involves an active introspection of who you are, including your personality, actions, values, beliefs, emotions, and thoughts. It is also about recognising your inner states—physical as well as mental. The awareness of being an introvert or extrovert, playful or composed, comes as a part of self-awareness. It helps one keep a check on themselves and adapt to different situations accordingly. It is essential to have self-awareness in the workplace, an environment that maintains strict etiquette. Keeping that in mind, let us see how you can build greater self-awareness in the workplace.

Building awareness of your physical state

Be mindful of your breathing, and examine the energy your body is experiencing at the moment—be it tense, relaxed, anxious, or restless. Then, close your eyes while trying to figure this out and notice. Most therapists recommend this way of understanding what your body says. In addition, this method is instrumental in finding the root cause of any discomfort. 

Awareness of your physical state is beneficial in the workplace, given how stressful things might get at times. When you pay attention to your needs and effectively communicate it with your colleagues, it gets much easier to focus and be productive at work. And if you try to ignore the signs of fatigue and burnout, concentrating on work becomes all the more difficult. Sometimes, a break can do wonders! Practising self-awareness in the workplace can help you take breaks at the right times.

Just as important as being mindful of one’s negative moods, it is equally essential to be aware of positive moods. Often in a workplace, employees tend to over-promise on some tasks when they are happy or optimistic about the outcome of a project. Be mindful of such scenarios to avoid having too much on your plate and getting yourself into trouble later. Allow yourself a healthy pace of work by understanding your capacity, mental state, and energy. Self-awareness of one’s positive and negative moods in the workplace can help one make realistic commitments and be an effective team member.

self-awareness in the workplace - availability heuristic bias

Paying attention to your cognitive biases

Even when conscious of our physical state, multiple other factors unconsciously drive our actions, thought patterns, and behaviour.

Cognitive bias is a tendency to pay attention to some information while rejecting others or recalling some information faster than others. These biases are often a result of your brain’s attempt to simplify information processing. Biases often work as rules of thumb that help you make sense of the world and reach decisions with relative speed. However, filtering what we perceive limits our worldview, which can result in blind spots or misleading information.

For instance, confirmation bias is the most common cognitive bias that plays a massive role in every aspect of our lives, especially in the workplace. It is a tendency to look for information that matches what we already know. For example, suppose you see a coworker doing outstanding work for the last few consecutive projects. In that case, you expect they would also continue their exceptional performance in the upcoming projects. Conversely, suppose someone at work hasn’t been able to keep up to the mark for some reason. In that case, your cognitive bias will prevent you from thinking they could excel in future work. When it kicks in, this bias makes you less likely to look at things objectively, which could harm the company and your role.

Stereotypes are another form of cognitive bias that can destabilise a workplace. Gender bias, for instance, is a huge drawback that limits a company from reaching greater heights and employees realising their full potential. A company that is not neurodiversity inclusive could hurt the company’s image and effectiveness. Stereotypes about educational background also come into play—“XYZ is a Humanities graduate; they won’t be pragmatic enough to perform technical and analytical tasks”.

These biases may be culturally ingrained, making them even more challenging to recognise. Here, sensitisation and workshops on critical thinking and building awareness about cognitive biases come in handy. By building self-awareness in the workplace, you can sensitise yourself and your team members to recognise such biases and work in a logical and efficient manner.

self-awareness in the workplace - bandwagon effect

Creating change through self-awareness in the workplace

Introspecting about your decisions, actions, and reactions could pave the path to self-awareness in the workplace. Reflecting on instances using questions like “how did that feedback make me feel” or “why did I choose that particular employee for the role” could help you revise your decisions wisely. This practice can also reveal a lot about your character and judgement. Let us look at the ways you can build self-awareness in the workplace.

  • Therapy or speaking to mentors could help you navigate change and implement strategies to be aware of yourself.
  • Reviewing your thoughts and actions could teach you the art of being constructively critical of yourself.
  • Sensitising sessions or workshops could help with biases like stereotypes or discrimination and ensure the holistic development of every individual.

Self-awareness in the workplace is a practice that everyone should learn. At an individual level, it could be your starting point for making sense of most of the world around you. 


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