Bringing my real self to work

The struggle to be real

For the past 5 year’s I have been working within a corporate structure that makes it difficult to really be myself. Ironically, I was hired on the strength of my educational qualifications and experience, but once I got inside the fence it felt as if this was valued for status more than substance.

For the first couple of years, my internalised sexism led me to feel that I was the barrier- not loud enough, not stroppy enough, not tough enough. Was I going to have to completely reinvent myself to be afforded space in this environment? And if so, was that a good thing or a bad thing for me? 

Call it naive optimism, but I had seriously underestimated the committment the organisation actually had to improving outcomes for learners. In my 3rd year, we had a restructure and our learners were to be called “customers”. The focus seems to be shifting and outcomes are increasingly talked about in terms of increasing our numbers and gaining ‘market share’. This is entirely new language to me, and quite frankly not a language I am particularly interested in learning.

LCFG has been an anchor in a year of madness. It is helpful to engage with kindred thinkers and activists who are looking to making a difference at all layers, not just what is good for a business but good for society.

At the same time, being in this LCFG cohort has been confronting as it has heightened my awareness that my integrity is being regularly undermined by my work environment. To the point that my engagement in the course is sometimes limited as I am so stuck in the drama of my usual work week. No one forces me to, but I generally put in about 50 hours per week and this impacts my attention for other pursuits. I can listen with genuine interest to all the great korero in the course but I don’t have it in me to catch the ball and run with it. So I stay real with myself and don’t pretend to be what I am not.

The models that the panel of speakers on 18th September were expressing and drawing upon were transgressive, stepping outside of mainstream in ways that are inspiring.

I wrote down the words of the whakatauki for the session:

He rakau morimori, e kore e taea te piki:

A tree shorn of its branches cannot be climbed

I applied this to my own context as meaning that I must have strong branches in order to keep developing and thriving. Not being real at work is like lopping off branches, limiting not only my own ability to keep climbing but also making it difficult for others to “climb” me (i.e. minimises what I have to offer the world).