Critical Self-reflection as a Learning Tool

Critically reflecting on your workplace relations is an effective and (seemingly) simple way to manage your professional workplace persona. From a training facilitator’s perspective, when I carry-out a training with an individual who has had time to try and think back, apply hindsight, and consider the impact they have on others, it makes the training go very smoothly. The individual has thought about their impact and would like to learn how to avoid situations that have potential to offend, which in turn means that I, as a facilitator, have the pleasure of working with a person who is already equipped with a good attitude and eagerness to learn. Having said that, the idea of critical self-reflection does not always come easily. Sometimes we need help.

This idea of critical self-reflection on workplace behavior evolved from a similar idea that has been measured and tested in the field of medicine.

4-Step Model of Critical Reflection

This four-step model originated from a need for critical reflection on behalf of employees in the medical field (RNs, doctors, etc). In fact in a study on the 4-step model, the results demonstrated that the four-step model of critical reflection “allowed participants to reflect on clinical learning issues, and raise them in a safe environment that enabled topics to be challenged and explored in a shared and cooperative manner.” (Walker et al, 2013) This type of reflection is without a doubt a vital part of the medical field’s procedures, givien that lives are in their hands; but I can’t help but see how this can and should also be applied to members of a workplace culture as a way of maintaining respectful human relations. Without any further ado, the four-step model looks like this:

  1. Break apart (or deconstruct) our practice into pieces, and question what is considered ‘normal’, ‘proper’ or ‘accepted’.
  2. Confront any of the difficult or ‘untouchable’ topics that these questions raise.
  3. Explore (or theorise) these issues by asking yourself: what are the possibilities? How could we do this differently? Who or what can I refer to for advice?
  4. Think of alternatives (think otherwise). Put our pieces back together to create better ways of thinking about and doing our practice.

Sounds simple, right? Actually, some of these steps require awareness and skills that many workplaces either lack or have placed on the back-burner.  Ask yourself, critically of course, if you have any questions as to what is considered ‘normal’, ‘proper’ or ‘accepted’. Also ask yourself if you struggle to confront the difficult or ‘untouchable’ topics in your workplace. If you answered yes to either or both of those questions, then you may just benefit from taking a course on workplace sensitivity in order to fill any gaps. Sometimes we just need to bounce our thoughts and ideas off of somebody outside the workplace culture, and we can of course be that entity for you; in fact we bring an informative, experienced consultant into the picture so as to provide healthy, productive feedback to your thoughts and ideas.

Here’s my last question for you to ask yourself:

Is it worth it to risk my workplace relationships, or should I take a day off work to get help with reflecting on my workplace persona?

Walker, R., Cooke, M., Henderson, A., & Creedy, D. K. (2013). Using a critical reflection process to create an effective learning community in the workplace. Nurse education today, 33(5), 504-511.