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Impression management: the silent culprit in our mental health crisis

Data speaks volumes, and it all points to the significant mental health crisis that looms over our workplaces and society at large.

We're at a pivotal moment. Employee burnout is peaking, and technology's meeting with humanity has birthed the organisational 'human debt'.

It's not just a buzzword; it's the actual cost of every lost human touchpoint, silently eroding our collective psyche and impacting profits.

But this isn't just about figures; it's personal. It’s the weight that compels us to don professional disguises, suppressing our true selves for a pay check.

The cost? Diminished human connections and a drift from our genuine essence.

Three ways to avoid ‘wellbeing washing’ in the workplace

But here's a twist: not every disguise is the same. Beyond societal norms lies the sneaky 'impression management'.

Born in the 1960s and later shadowed by the buzzier 'psychological safety', it's the art of silencing our authentic selves.

Have you ever held back in a meeting, fearing judgment?

Or swallowed a genuine concern, worried about overstepping. That's it, in action. It's the force stifling our voices, hindering genuine connections.

Addressing this is crucial. When teams break free, they don't just function, they excel.

Simply put: less facade, more collaboration, better mental health.

The glaring issue? The taboo around discussing mental health and the lack of organisational support and permission to do the habitual human work which would ensure we gave ourselves and our teams the emotional care we need to perform.

It's time to shatter all remnants of impression management.

True wellbeing demands our unfiltered selves. No finger-pointing here; let’s pivot.

The first step? Awareness.

Spotting moments when we are inclined to mask our truths. It's about challenging norms and embracing uniqueness. Cultivating a space where openness is lauded, authenticity is championed, and everyone feels acknowledged.

Keeping wellbeing simple

Equipping teams to counteract impression management is next.

This means software, training, workshops, and platforms for open discussions, fostering a more inclusive workspace.

Shedding all fear and all masks, in theory.

Impression management is the invisible barrier that keeps us from speaking our minds, sharing our concerns, and truly connecting with our colleagues.

As I said in my book, tackling this beast is non-negotiable. Why? Because when teams shed these constraints, they achieve more, faster, as if by magic.

True servant leadership is key. When leaders are genuine, they set a precedent.

By showing vulnerability and promoting open conversation, they do a little, but if they take the extra step and foster the human work while increasing their own emotional intelligence and agility, they communicate that being yourself and being human is not just okay – it's encouraged and valued.

Line managers able to spot signs of poor mental health

Yet, there's an impression management facet that goes under the radar but can inflict a lot of emotional damage in its wake: the fear of seeming mentally unwell.

The workplace stigma around mental health was, hopefully, a hiccup in our human journey. As we evolve, it's clear that we must be transparent to thrive genuinely.

Yes, the mental health crisis is intricate and multifaceted. But by confronting impression management, we're one step closer to a healthier, inclusive, and thriving workspace. The journey's worth it, with truly boundless benefits we all deserve.

Duena Blomstrom is CEO of PeopleNotTech and author of Tech-Led Culture