Through the looking glass: Using the Johari Window to enhance business practice

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Using the Johari Window to enhance business practice

Build better relationships and enhance trust in business teams

We live and work in a fast paced society, and pressure and stress can affect people in different ways, often leading to friction in the workplace or at home. Individual differences can enhance our workplace but can also create conflict due to the different values and work ethic that people may have. The Johari Window is a concept that can assist businesses in improving self-awareness and mutual respect and understanding between groups and individuals to bring out the best in everyone.

The Johari Window was developed by American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955 as a tool to help build trust between people and enhance relationships. It aims to improve individual self awareness by sharing information with others as well as learning through the feedback that others provide. The Johari Window can also be utilised to enhance teamwork and trust in work environments.

The Johari Window can also be utilised to enhance teamwork and trust in work environments.Click To Tweet

The Johari Window concept focuses on soft skills such as emotional intelligence, empathy, cooperation, interpersonal and intergroup development, and metacognitive ability. Effective use of these soft skills can enhance any business. For example, consider emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to identify and regulate ones own emotions, recognise and tune in to the emotions of others, and harness the appropriate level of emotion to manage a task effectively. People who are high in EI understand their own strengths and weaknesses, are motivated and highly productive, and are empathic to those around them. Empathy in business is also invaluable. According to Ashoka (2013), business success depends on leaders who are empathic as they are able to adapt to different circumstances, build on the strengths of people around them, and relate to their environment as it changes. Indeed, when a business fails, it is often because leaders have stopped focusing on understanding their environment and the needs of those within it. Empathy in business opens the door for new and creative ideas, encourages others to express their thoughts and feelings, invites people to openly discuss any disagreements, and ensures the business is client focused and that staff are working towards a common goal. By having a clear understanding of what soft skills an employee may have, a business will be able to match that individual to a task more effectively.

The Johari Window has four regions which represent information about a person which is either known to the individual as well as others (open/free), unknown to the individual, but known to others (blind), known to the individual but kept secret from others (hidden), or unknown to all (unknown). While the overall window remains the same size, each quadrant can grow or diminish to reflect the changing knowledge shared about an individual across the four areas.

The 4 regions of the Johari Window for business









When a new member joins an existing team, the unknown area will be larger than the open and free area.

The Johari Window when a new member joins an existing business team.









Providing and responding to feedback from others will increase self-discovery and reduce the blind area.

The Johari window after providing feedback to a business team









What the 4 regions of the Johari Window represent

1. The Open/Free Area

This is a public area where good communication and cooperation can occur. There is no mistrust or conflict and members in the group all know the attributes of the individual. This area can be smaller for new members or larger for members who have worked together for a while. The open and free area can expand when feedback is sought and the individual can expand into blind areas by asking another person about themselves. When a business and/or leader of a group promotes a culture of openness and sets expectations for two way communication to occur freely, the organisation will thrive.

2. Blind Area

This is an area where others in an organisation or team are aware of an individual’s attributes, capabilities mannerism and habits, but the individual themselves are not. Constructive feedback from others can help to address any concerns and improve performance, effectively shrinking the blind area. Feedback can also be used in a positive way to boost self-esteem and confidence to make it more likely that the individual will want to share more about themselves (which will serve to broaden the open area).

3. Hidden Area

This is the area known to the individual but kept hidden from others. It represents information on feelings, thoughts, agendas and experiences that have not been shared with others for whatever reason. If important work related information is hidden, the individual could begin to work through a process of disclosure to move these aspects into the open area. Clearly, the culture of the workplace has a profound effect on how readily an individual will share, and it is important for a business to recognise the potential impact of hidden information, and work towards promoting an inclusive and respectable environment that encourages openness and honesty.

4. Unknown Area

Consider this the undiscovered self. The attributes, abilities, aptitudes, experiences and feelings in this areas are unknown to the individual and unknown to the group. The unknown areas can become discovered through feedback, self-disclosure, development of skills and abilities, and having feeling supported in the work environment.

Putting the Johari Window into practice in a business environment

To start the process, provide a list of adjectives and ask an individual to choose words that they feel relate to them. For example, they may choose words like patient, helpful, trustworthy, organised, introverted and intelligent. Then ask another team member to describe the person using the same list of words. They may choose similar or different words. For example,  patient, helpful, trustworthy, adaptable, responsive and shy.

In this example, there are three attributes shared (in the open space) and three that the individual is not aware of (in the blind space), There are also three attributes that the other person did not identify (i.e. that remain hidden). Located in the unknown area are the words that neither person identified, but might be revealed given the right circumstances or opportunities.

By being open to feedback individuals can develop, teams can benefit, and businesses can grow.

The Johari Window is an example of just one model you will explore through the CHC51015 Diploma of Counselling. As you can see, the skills learnt through this Counselling Diploma can be transferred to any business or opportunity, such as interviewing skills, group cohesion, or learning how to listen to others.

Wendy Webber

Head of Faculty Community and Counselling



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