A Building Block for Workplace Trust: Looking Through Johari’s Window

Along the path toward workplace optimization, it’s wise to be open to some communication techniques that may have seemed radical as recently as last decade. Having already witnessed many 21st-century companies putting these techniques into practice, it’s rewarding to watch the misconceptions melt away, clearing that path for true progress. For these companies, concepts such as empathy, inclusion, feedback and social “safety” can be pinpointed as having enriched their intraoffice bonds, thereby generating an atmosphere of trust they could never have dreamed of in a not-so-different era.

The new challenge becomes the sustaining and building upon of workplace trust, which takes dedication and deliberate action. One nifty tool designed to help in your commitment to expanding trust is one that was revealed at a DRIVEN event way back when our name was WAC. It is represented by a simple, clever graphic that when applied to a social environment like the workplace can effectively open up communications and improve understanding between individuals. It’s called Johari’s Window.

A Little Background

I know, I know. The name Johari’s Window sounds new-agey, or like the title of a romance novel. Right? In actuality, it’s much more practical than that. “Johari” is a word that was formed by combining the first names of the illustration’s developers, Joe Luft and Harry Ingham, back in 1955. It’s that simple. Its impact as a social enrichment device, however, is a tad more intricate. The idea is that when Johari is applied appropriately in the workplace, trust can be built via the disclosure of information about oneself. It also prescribes that with the help of feedback from coworkers, you can learn some unknowns about yourself and discover what’s holding you back in your career. To get started, first study the official Johari’s Window:

As featured on ManagementStudyGuide.com

To apply this directly, let’s elaborate on a DRIVEN true client story. Samantha (not her real name) is a manager at an accounting firm (not her real industry) who wants to be promoted to senior manager. Despite her best efforts, her promotion is not unfolding at the pace she had hoped it would. If she jumps to conclusions about the reasons why, not only will she be far off-base, but her predicament may continue indefinitely. But if instead she takes the Johari approach to freeing up the channels of communication with her colleagues, her goal will soon be within reach.

For instance, Samantha is off to a good start through her Open Knowns (Quadrant 1), as she has actively made her promotion goal known to her manager, her career advisor and her coach. But she has unknowingly entered shaky ground through her Blind Area (Quadrant 2) in that there have been whispered concerns about her reliability (She typically shows up late to weekly meetings and has even dialed in last-minute for a client call.) This conclusion they’ve drawn about Samantha is a direct result of her reluctance to disclose to her colleagues some items in her Hidden Area (Quadrant 3), like the fact that she and her husband are having problems and he’s moved out, leaving her solely responsible for getting her kids on the bus in the morning and to the doctor’s office when they’re sick, which often causes her lateness. And let’s not even think about Quadrant 4!

A Logical Solution

The goal is a collaborative one, which is for both managers and reports to take an honest look at their own Johari Windows and stretch Quadrant 1 to outsize the other 3 quadrants:

As featured on MindTools.com and with credit to McGraw Hill Education

This expansion of “knowns” is of benefit to all parties. For example, when Samantha finally decided to share the personal information about her home life with her colleagues, they understood the temporary rough patch she was in and promptly subtracted it from the equation. Likewise, if her colleagues had shared their concerns about her reliability sooner, it would have eliminated her assumption that it was a bad idea to risk seeming unfit for new job responsibilities by admitting defeat in her home life.

It’s interesting how such a simple approach to workplace communications can peel back the layers of confusion and misconception so effortlessly, yielding trust and social safety in the process. So long as our boundaries are thoughtful and over-sharing doesn’t occur, we can all do our jobs more efficiently, with the freedom to deliberately shape our individual careers goals. As for Samantha, a promotion is now just around the corner.