Help Employees See Their Blind Spots



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Have you ever worked with a co-worker who, on occasion, acts in an unproductive or self-defeating way? Often, they seem oblivious to their behavior—it’s like they cannot help themselves. They lack awareness of their behavior and how it impacts their surroundings. The rest of the work week, they are productive team members, except for the occasional “moment” of unproductive comments or behaviors.

These employees can be a strain on a company, create lack of trust among the team and can create uncomfortable moments with others. Yet, at their core, they are good people and are often productive workers or leaders.

It is the entrepreneur or management leader’s job to shine a light onto this employees’ behavior. A great tool I use to help do this with my coaching clients at Extraordinary Advisors is the Johari Window. Its beauty is the simple nature of its design, allowing for a quick understanding and acceptance of it by employees.

The Johari Window concept is particularly helpful to understanding the Psychological Contract in the employee/employer relationship. Primarily, the Psychological Contract refers to the relationship between an employer and its employees, and specifically concerns mutual expectations of inputs and outcomes. The Johari Window is a technique that helps people better understand their relationship with themselves and others.

It was created by psychologists Joseph Luft (1916–2014) and Harrington Ingham (1916–1995) in 1955, and is used primarily in corporate settings as a heuristic exercise, which allows a person to discover or learn something about themselves. Luft and Ingham called their Johari Window model “Johari” after combining their first names, Jo and Harrington.

In the exercise, the employee or leadership team member picks a number of adjectives from a list, (A Johari window uses 56 adjectives as possible descriptions of the participant) choosing ones they feel describe their own personality.

Next, co-workers get the same list of 56 traits, and each picks an equal number of adjectives that describe their peer.

These adjectives are then inserted into a two-by-two grid of four cells. (see above diagram)

The philosopher Charles Handy calls this concept the Johari House with four rooms. Room One is the part of ourselves that we and others see. Room Two contains aspects that others see, but we are unaware of. Room Three is the private space we know but hide from others. Room Four is the unconscious part of us that neither ourselves nor others see.

The Johari Window model is also referred to as a “disclosure/feedback model of self-awareness” and by some people, an information processing tool.

The Johari Window represents information—feelings, experience, views, attitudes, skills, intentions, motivation, and so on—within or about a person—in relation to their group, from four perspectives, described in the chart.

The four quadrants/rooms:

Open, or Arena (Room 1): Adjectives that both the employee and peers select go in this room (or quadrant) of the grid. These are traits that employee and peers perceive.

Hidden, or Façade (Room 2): Adjectives selected by the employee, but not by any of their peers, go in this room. These are things the peers are either unaware of, or that are untrue but for the employee’s claim.

Blind Spot (Room 3): Adjectives not selected by the employee, but only by their co-workers go here. These represent what co-workers perceive, but the employee does not.

Unknown (Room 4): Adjectives that neither employee nor his co-worker selected go here. They represent employee’s behaviors or motives that no one participating recognizes, either because they do not apply or because of collective ignorance of these traits.

The goal of the exercise is to expand the Open (Arena) square at the expense of both the Unknown square and the Blind Spot square, resulting in more knowledge of oneself for the employee, while voluntary disclosure of Private square may result in better interpersonal intimacy and friendship, further developing awareness and trust amongst the team. This type of disclosure requires a high level of trust amongst the team, as well as a desire for personal improvement by the employee.

The Johari Window model also relates to emotional intelligence theory (EQ) and one's awareness and development of emotional intelligence.

My goal as a coach is to explain the meaning of the Johari Window theory to my clients and readers of this column, so they can properly understand it in their own terms. Once someone understands its value, they are empowered to use that new understanding of themselves in their own way and to incorporate the underlying principles into their future thinking and behavior.

The Johari Window is an elegant and potent model, as it simply helps people to understand the most effective way to optimize their value in the workplace.