In order to be effective within the workplace, employees need to communicate freely and with a sense of trust. This can be one of the most difficult effects to achieve as a manager. There are many valid reasons why employees might not trust one another with any information deeper than that on a very surface level. Office gossip, competition for a promotion, people using personal information to harm a fellow coworker, all serve to destroy trust.
The Johari Window is a personality or leadership style inventory. Unlike most personality tests that divide people into groups with similar characteristics, the window results are different for every individual. It was created to show where people fit in terms of sharing themselves with others. In general, shy or introverted people are reluctant to share their feelings. Their window will be more closed than that of the extrovert who can make conversation with any stranger.
There are 4 “panes” to the Johari Window. The first is the OPEN area. This contains what we know about ourselves and what others know about us. Examples: your physical appearance, the type of car you drive.
The second pane is the HIDDEN area. These are things we know about ourselves that others don’t know. Examples include: our fears, religious beliefs, political persuasion, hope, and dreams.
The third pane is the BLIND area. These are the things that we don’t realize about ourselves but others know about us. For Example, gamblers are well-known for looking for “tells” in their opponents. These are unconscious twitches or mannerisms that help indicate the type of hand the player has.
The final pane is the UNKNOWN area. These are the things that we don’t about ourselves and no one else knows either.For example repressed feelings, an unknown natural ability or aptitude.
How does impact colleagues in the workplace? People’s windows may change during their work hours. People who are naturally more open may close off large areas of their lives from co-workers. For example, gay employees may not share their home lives with anyone at work. A very conservative person may hide her political beliefs if the rest of the office is very liberal. These examples fall into the “hidden” area of the Johari Window and may or may not cause concern for the employee. If the hiding comes from fear of losing a job or a promotion if people “found out” it certainly will cause stress and impact their quality of work.
The window can also help managers understand the less obvious needs of employees. People who are very private need to have that privacy respected at work. For example, a very open colleague might reveal information to them that would be very uncomfortable knowing and cause the private person to pull in even more and trust even less. For example, a colleague told me about his experience at a convention where two of our fellow workers got drunk and had sex with one another while he was pretending to sleep in the other bed. This made me vow never to share anything of any nature with this man. It definitely had an impact on my working relationship with him.
The Johari Window is a tool that can also help you understand where your employees fit on a “very close” to “very open” scale. Employees can better understand one another when they see their own Johari windows.
I am a former teacher and when we had teacher work days we would all joke about how much fun school was when the kids weren’t there! The same holds true at work. Look at how much more work you’d get done if you didn’t have to deal with all those pesky co-workers! Since that’s not the case, the Johari Window offers employees a chance to learn more about their openness at work and that of their colleagues.
For more information on the Johari Window do a search on Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingram and the “Johari Window of Opportunity.”