I had the opportunity to spend some time with coworkers this week in a social setting (trust me, with a one-year-old at home, this doesn’t happen often). Somehow, we got to talking about personality assessments. You know, the ones that tell you how you communicate with others or whether you are logical or not. And someone mentioned how social and outgoing I am, at least based on my behavior at the event – a work happy hour. I mentioned that I have taken a lot of these assessments, and that most have found me to be an introvert. My coworkers didn’t really agree with that assessment at all.
While I don’t necessarily feel out of place in social settings (I may be a borderline introvert), this whole conversation got me to thinking – how often do we adjust our personas, our true nature, to fit the situation we are in? I am naturally a person who enjoys quiet alone time, a period of the day where I can reflect and take on activities that allow me to think (such as writing). And I actually get nervous when going into an unknown social environment. But my reaction to that environment is to talk to whoever I can and to be as involved as I can. To me, standing in the corner alone would be even more awkward than making small talk with people I barely know.
So what is my true nature? Am I being untrue to me by adjusting my natural state, my personality, to fit the situation? Or is my ability to adjust simply another aspect of me, another layer of my personality?
In my own experiences, I feel that we often play the role we think is expected of us. And I’m not sure I can say whether this is right or wrong. I don’t believe it’s a good idea to change ourselves to fit what we think others at work (or anywhere else) want, because then we really aren’t being true to ourselves. But I also think there may be a bit of discomfort involved in some professional situations – what can be seen as an opportunity to ‘stretch ourselves.’ And that can be a good thing, sometimes.
If you are like me and you read any books on professional development, they may tell you to do things differently in your professional life to fit some mold of what constitutes a leader or ideal manager. While some of this advice can be rather useful, I’m of the camp that you shouldn’t have to change your values or principles on life to fit that ‘ideal’ role because, guess what, it may not be the ideal role for you. As an example, I read tried to read a book called Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, which advocated (for one) that I not bring baked goods to work for my coworkers. Um, sorry if that makes me seem too ‘domestic’ but baking for others makes me happy. And if I don’t get a promotion because I baked cookies for the office last Christmas, I may not really want that promotion anyways.The best way to shine is by being yourself and knowing that is enough. Click To Tweet
All I’m saying here is, if it seems uncomfortable to the point of being counter to your basic beliefs or core personality, don’t do it. At best, you’ll get that promotion and be miserable when you get there. At worst, others will see right through the façade and will feel as uncomfortable being around you as you feel trying to be someone you are not. We all need to maintain a level of professionalism in the workplace, but you shouldn’t feel like you are playing a role or selling yourself out.
Do you feel that you ever take on different personalities to fit certain situations? How does doing this make you feel?