I like Pamela Paul’s NYT columns, and have subscribed to them along with those of John McWhorter and Rev. Tish Harrison Warren, the former for pleasure and the latter to satisfy my masochistic tendencies.
Paul used to be the editor of the Sunday NYT book review, but is now writing op-eds. It was a delight to discover a new columnist who seems to be sensible about wokeism, and I’ve written about three of her columns (here, here, and here). The title of the latest one was a bit confusing, and I wasn’t going to read it, but I did learn about a new “holistic work” movement that Paul decries. Have a look for yourself if you have access to the NYT (i.e., click to read):
So there’s this new “Bring Your Whole Self to Work” movement, which apparently means not only schlepping your whole persona to work, but displaying it to your co-workers, warts and all:
You may be unaware of the prevailing “whole self” fashion. Perhaps you managed to skip that H.R. module or you work at a small outfit, one unencumbered by systems, strategies and sweeping philosophies.
So what exactly does it even mean? According to TED talker and corporate consultant Mike Robbins, author of a book called — that’s right — “Bring Your Whole Self to Work,” it means being able “to fully show up” and “allow ourselves to be truly seen” in the workplace. Per Robbins, it’s “essential” to create a work environment “where people feel safe enough to bring all of who they are to work.” Bringing the whole self is a certified buzzphrase at Google and encouraged at Experian. An entire issue of the Harvard Business Review has been devoted to the subject. In this new workplace, you don’t have to keep your head down and do your job. Instead, you “bring your whole self to work” — personality flaws, vulnerabilities, idiosyncratic mantras and all.
Perhaps you’ve heard of whole self’s cousin, the “authentic self,” also urged to head into the office. According to BetterUp, which bills itself as the first Whole Person™ platform, “That means acknowledging your personality, including the quirky bits, and bringing your interests, hopes, dreams, and even fears with you, even if they don’t seem relevant to your work.”
Paul attributes the movement’s popularity to the fact that it comports with tenets of the DEI movement: “Both purport to make employees feel comfortable expressing aspects of their identity in the workplace, even when irrelevant to the work at hand.” That may be a stretch, but I’m not sure. “Holistic” is now a red-flag word for me, like “nuance” or “stakeholder”—a sign that you’re treading near Wokeville.
I am of course not familiar with this movement. Scientists and academics don’t practice it, for we don’t have that kind of work. Nevertheless, as a journalist, Paul is repelled by it:
The problem is for many people, it’s no more comfortable dragging the whole kit and caboodle into the workplace than it is showing up every day on a relentless basis. Nor is it necessarily productive. Not everyone wants their romantic life, their politics, their values or their identity viewed by their colleagues as pertinent to their performance. For some people, a private life is actually best when it’s private.
So here’s an alternative: Let’s everyone bring only — or at least primarily — the worky parts. You remember those fragments: the part that angsted over every résumé punctuation mark and put a suit on for the first interview, the part whose mom urged her to put her best face forward in the workplace? It’s that old-fashioned thing we used to call “being professional.” Heck, it’s the you you were for your entire corporate history, until the prevailing H.R. doctrine abandoned buttoning things up.
. . . After all, the office isn’t the only place you exist — why should they get to have all of you? If you only bring the best parts of you or at the very least, the part of you that does the actual work, you’re more likely to get rewarded for it. One friend and former manager of Boomer vintage told me she credited her own success to religiously bringing her best self to work — and making sure the crabbiest, most critical part of her personality stayed home. Why deprive people of the ability to complain about work to their husband or roommate the moment they walk through the door? That’s where it generally belongs, despite the current misguided effort.
Have any readers have this inflicted on them? Or is Paul complaining about what’s pretty much of a non-problem?
But not everyone is comfortable having their co-workers know so much about them. As the co-author of a recent paper out of Wharton (“OMG! My Boss Just Friended Me: How Evaluations of Colleagues’ Disclosure, Gender, and Rank Shape Personal/Professional Boundary Blurring Online”) noted, “There’s a tension that people have between this exhortation to bring your whole self to work, to connect, to be a part of things, but also to keep a separation between your personal and your professional life.”
. . . “I do think it’s OK to talk about what you’re going to do on the weekend or more generically,” a 33-year-old business analyst named Emily told The Times in a recent focus group on millennials in the workplace. “But if there’s something personal going on, or a problem that my family is having or something, health reasons or health concerns, I don’t talk about any of that.”
I’m actually quite glad that this movement hasn’t infused academia, or at least academic science. It seems weird to dump your issues on your coworkers or “share” with them for the sake of sharing. One of the old bromides my father used to impart to me at bedtime was this, “Jerry, you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your relatives.” I’d rephrase that here to say, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your colleagues.”