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When "best behaviour" is the worst

Have you ever worked somewhere where, when you enter the office, you can tell just by the vibe that the senior leaders are in today? Perhaps your current workplace is like this (or was like this when you all worked from the office everyday and the feeling has now crept over into your hybrid working model too). The CEO, or the Fundraising Director, or perhaps a trustee is in for the day and everyone is on their "best behaviour”.

Interesting phrase, that - because I think in this situation, the version of “best behaviour” we see isn’t “best” at all. It’s often quieter, head down, perhaps taking a shorter lunch break, fewer cups of tea, no chatting in the kitchen. It’s working late, or removing the headphones with the music that helps you concentrate. It’s, actually, probably hampering things.

What do we stand to lose on a day like that (or a day that feels like that)?

  • We might feel less ourselves, because we’re curbing our personality to fit into a corporate box

  • We interact less with colleagues, perhaps relying on emails rather than conversation (which can be more time consuming, lead to more risk of being misunderstood, and less collaborative)

  • We perhaps work into our lunch / into the evening because we want to be seen as dedicated and committed

  • The day probably just feels more like hard work because we’re so busy trying to be impressive and professional that we stop being… just ourselves

There are two main reasons this can happen. (Well, actually there are three, but I’m assuming that the third - that your behaviour on the days the leadership team aren’t in the office is wildly inappropriate - isn’t true!)


  1. Your leadership team have different expectations of a working day than the rest of the team


  1. The rest of the team ASSUME that the leadership team have different expectations of a working day

Both of these scenarios speak to me of a workplace culture issue bubbling away under the surface. They suggest that there is a disconnect between senior leaders and more junior members of staff. That the organisational values aren’t understood, or aren’t right, or maybe don’t exist. That the right processes might not be in place, and people are relying on workarounds but fear they might not land well if SLT “finds out”. That the team don’t feel empowered and trusted to work in the way that’s right for them, reverting instead when they feel under scrutiny to a staid and traditional notion of what an office looks like.

But chats by the kettle can lead to a colleague offering to help with a problem. Popping to the comms team desks to chat through the changes they want to make to fundraising copy can help ease misunderstandings, and let both sides learn from each other and come closer together (rather than relying on the red pen of doom and winding each other up). Sitting staring at the screen all day, taking less time for breaks or even to make cups of tea isn’t great for our physical or mental wellbeing.

If you recognise this behaviour from your workplace, Rise might be the answer to the problem you hadn’t yet realised you have. It’s our proactive, get-under-the-bonnet-before-the-engine-breaks approach to reviewing and revamping your organisational culture, helping you build better ways of working together and setting a clear agenda for supporting colleague wellbeing.

It *does* need senior leadership buy-in. If you recognise this issue from your workplace, you could forward this to your boss. And if you are an SLT member and a colleague has forwarded this to you, be proud of their courage, and take the first step to lifting your organisation. You can arrange a call, or email us for the programme details. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Lisa x


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