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Chew Han Guan

How HR can use the Johari window to uncover its blind spots



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Chew Han Guan, senior manager, human resources, learning and development, at Systems on Silicon Manufacturing Company (SSMC) uses the popular psychological model to benefit his peers in HR.

– This article has been written in a personal capacity, and does not represent the views of the author’s employer.


The Johari Window is a popular and widely used psychological model in the area of coaching which helps individuals become more aware and cognisant of themselves. Through self-disclosure and feedback from others, individuals become more aware of their blind spots and others develop better understanding of them.

By adapting this model and applying it in the context of an organisation for both HR and employees, similar positive effects can be harnessed to build better rapport and lead to increased employee motivation.

Here are some suggestions on how this can be done.

Communicating more transparently

In Johari Window, an individual reveals his hidden self by sharing things about himself or herself that are unknown to others. This builds understanding and trust from others. In the same way, within specific boundaries, HR can provide higher levels of clarity and inform on areas that employees would be interested in but are not aware of.

For example, although the absolute bonus quantum would be a sensitive area, HR could explain the pay philosophy and generic formulaic approach on how this bonus is derived at. Bonuses are without a doubt, a perennial interest area for employees and knowing how they could better achieve it helps raise motivation and quells suspicion.

Sharing at such a high level desensitises the information but helps point employees to the right behaviour and direction. Insofar, if team performance is a main component of this bonus, employees will know that they need to cooperate and support each other, cultivating trust and strengthening company values.

Getting feedback frequently

Next, an individual reduces his blind spots by asking for feedback on things about himself or herself that are known to others but not the individual. By extension of the model, to do this, HR should garner feedback frequently from the ground.

Here is an illustration. Talent retention is an area that HR might have to take a passive approach to at times simply because by the time an employee resigns, it is often too late to rectify the situation. The situation is especially challenging now as the trend towards shorter career stints rises and the competition for talent further intensifies.

However, if HR talks and listens to the ground often to understand their pain points and get a sense of their morale, interventions could be implemented with timeliness. For instance, it takes time to plan out job rotations, redesign jobs, source for suitable training providers, improve working conditions or revise procedures.

Discovering untapped potential

Through opening up and enhancing communication on both sides by having HR and employees both sharing and listening more, further synergies could lead to new discoveries.

As a case in point, hearing the needs from its employees to have more autonomy and growth opportunities, Linkedin created the [in]cubator programme which empowers its employee to pitch an idea to executive staff once a quarter. Favourable ideas would then be given resources and time to develop. The results include a meeting booking system called go/book that has been adopted for internal use.

This enabled the company to tap on the latent potential and innovative talent of their employees, and the employees have opportunities to further develop themselves in an area of interest to themselves as well, leading to a win-win scenario.

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