Carl Jung’s archetypes and how they show up in the workplace
How much time do you spend at work? On average, most workers spend 2,080 hours at work per year, and 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime. Consider the number of interactions you’ll have with your employers, coworkers, clients, and partners over the timespan. When work makes up for one-third of your life, it’s easy to see that getting along with others plays an important role in your success. What isn’t always easy is getting along, especially with people who have personality profiles that clash with yours.
That’s where Carl Jung’s archetypes come in. According to the Swiss psychotherapist, archetypes are universal personality types that are evident in people from all walks of life. In this Pacific Prime article, we’ll take a look at the different archetypes and how they show up in the workplace.
Carl Jung archetypes and the collective unconscious
Jung regarded personality as how other people perceive us, not what our true person actually is. Instead, he viewed personality as an idealized version of the person we would like to be and believed three components make up the human psyche:
- The ego – Our conscious state
- The personal unconscious – Our memories, including ones we’ve suppressed
- The collective unconscious – Part of the unconscious mind that is genetically inherited and shared amongst the human species
Rejecting the idea that people are born as a blank slate, Jung proposed that the archetypes come from the collective unconscious and that these universal models can give insight into how we function, learn, and more. While Jung believed that archetypes are limitless, he identified the following four main archetypes:
- The Persona
- The Shadow
- The Anima/Animus
- The Self
Jung believed each archetype contributed to personality, but that one archetype is usually dominant. Additionally, personal experiences and cultural surroundings affect how the archetype is expressed.
Archetypes at the office
As you become familiar with the different archetypal characters, you’ll see your behaviors, strengths, and motivations reflected in one or more of them. You’ll also see how the different archetypes match others in the workplace, which could help with compassion in the workplace.
The way we present ourselves to others, such as our friends, family, and society, is our persona. We use the persona to adapt to different social groups and situations. For example, we may be the quiet coworker to our work group and the kind-hearted friend to our friendship group. It is a fundamental part of the psyche since it enables people to adjust to those around them. People who identify with the persona too much, however, may lose touch with who they really are.
- How would you describe your persona in the workplace? Think about the traits your work persona has and the values they identify with.
- Are there any things you want to change about your work persona? Consider if your work persona is different from your true self and if there are any values or qualities that you would like to add to your work persona or vice versa.
The shadow deals with the unconscious mind and its memories (including those that are repressed), instincts, weaknesses, desires, and flaws. Desires and emotions that are deemed unacceptable to society, or even ourselves, fall under this persona. Let’s say your shadow is aggression. It will typically stay dormant until a certain situation triggers it, such as someone bumping into you. Jung believed that those who deny their shadows often project them onto other people instead.
- Are there any beliefs or feelings that you’ve been wanting to express at work but have yet to?
- How do you think that affects your work and your relationships in the workplace?
- Do certain coworkers or situations bring out your shadow side? If yes, think about what the most recent situation looked like.
Many cultures discourage men from exploring their femininity and women from displaying masculine traits. Jung observed how gender and sex shaped set roles for men and women, which led him to propose the anima and anima archetypes. The anima represents the feminine side of men whereas the animus represents the masculine side in women. He referred to the anima/animus as the true self that allows us to independently communicate with the collective unconscious.
- What are some ways you feel your communication is masculine or feminine?
- How can you improve your communication with other people?
Jung recognized the self as the union between an individual’s unconsciousness and consciousness. The self is created through the process of individuation, where various aspects of one’s personality join to form a whole. When the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind do not fit well, or fail to address issues, there is disharmony in the self that will show up as mental suffering or struggle. The shared goal of the self and individual is harmony and internal and external connection.
- Does work feel harmonious to you? What about your tasks and coworkers?
- Could some situations be more harmonious? What can you do to make them better?
- What have you learned over the past year? How have you brought those lessons into your work life?
Aside from Jung’s four main archetypes, there are many others that you may resonate with. Some archetype examples that often show up in the workplace include the creator, the caregiver, the explorer, and the ruler. Similarly, some of the most difficult office archetypes include the complainer, the controller, and the indifferent.
If you’re curious to learn what archetypes are most dominant in you, you might want to take Carl Jung’s archetype test. When you recognize different personality types in your own behavior or in others, consider the situation, look for patterns, and think about how you can move forward with this knowledge.
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