Your organisation's most wasted resource
Updated: Oct 27
There is a good chance some of your employees are doing a second job during their work hours. It is not the type of second job you think, though.
In 1963, sociologist Erving Goffman coined the phrase 'covering' to describe how people keep parts of their identity hidden in the work environment. In 2006, Kenji Yoshino further developed the concept by grouping aspects people cover up into appearance, affiliation, advocacy and association. Yoshino's survey found that 61% of respondents cover up parts of who they are at work in at least one of these areas.
This means that in businesses large and small; from the IT industry to government agencies, in for-profits and nonprofits, in any country, most people are spending their energy and time hiding their inadequacies rather than working. It surely must be one of the most wasted resources an organisation can suffer.
From the employer's point of view, you are paying a full-time wage for part-time work. Every day. Not only that, it leads to higher staff turnover and absenteeism, and low engagement all of which mean reaching company objectives becomes more costly than it should be.
From the employee's point of view, doing the 'second job' is like leading a double life. It means expanding time and energy managing other people's impressions, showing themselves to their best advantage, playing politics. It is not that they do it on purpose or even want to do it. They simply do not feel they can be themselves.
We are wired to grow, evolve and develop. It's hard if you spend your time pretending to be somebody you are not. Research shows that the main cause of burnout is not work overload but working too long without experiencing your own development.
What can you do?
Our organisations should not be places were people have to hide. Instead we should build organisations with strong company cultures in which people feel safe and looked after so that they can bring the best versions of themselves.
As you might imagine, there is no magic pill. The same as brushing your teeth once a month for 2 hours will not stop your teeth from falling out, it's incremental changes and initiatives over time that will make the difference. It is everyone's responsibility and here are a few things to get you started:
As a CEO/owner/manager
recognise and help your employees meet their needs - the FIRO model is a useful tool
improve team cohesion, build psychological safety and encourage vulnerability by understanding how people see themselves in relation to the team - Social Bull's Eye
surface challenges and tensions employees/teams might be experiencing but not surfacing - Team Self-assessment
understand stages of team development - Integrated Model of Group Development (IMGD)
learn from others - we got this podcast
As an individual
explore work dynamics, challenges and what your values and priorities are - 1:1 coaching
dig deeper into who you are as a person emotionally and psychologically together with a therapists (for those who need to hear it, therapy is a sign of courage and strength, not weakness)
discuss your challenges with a trusted and close colleague or in the 1:1 with you manager
try feedback, conflict and stages of team development from the list above
Improved engagement and employee retention, more open communication, enhanced accountability, reduced costs and employee downtime, better error detection, anticipating and solving seemingly intractable problems - the benefits are so obvious it feels cliche to mention them.
Creating a workplace culture where no one is doing a 'second job' doesn't mean firing everyone and starting from scratch. Nor is it about wrapping everyone in bubble wrap and treating them like fragile items. The solution is not a question of either/or but and/both. It's about figuring out how to realise the company's potential by realising the human potential. That way the company and the employees become resources that support each other's growth. The cost of doing it otherwise is simply too great for everyone involved.
Get in touch to have a chat
References and additional reading:
An Everyone Culture (book)
Reinventing organisations (book)