Many professionals feel like they have a split personality. There’s the side who dons that suit or uniform each morning to sit in meetings, field questions, and smile nice while jumping through hoops. Then, there’s the other side who you dust off for family, friends, and weekends.
It’s an unfortunate habit we’ve all gotten into, bringing just a part of ourselves to work. The only problem with this is that you’re shortchanging not only yourself but your career.
Projecting an image that doesn’t keep true to your real self can eventually damage your wellbeing. And if you’re not happy at work, you’re probably not as productive as you could be — not the best way to find success.
So, how exactly should you go about being yourself while still remaining professional?
1. Develop self-knowledge. Getting to know yourself is one thing. Getting to know yourself in relation to the workplace is another. Consider seeking out some feedback from coworkers on their perceptions of you. Then, reflect on both your personal and professional history, as well as your past successes and failures, and use them as a guide to choose which stories to share at work.
2. Consider the purpose of disclosures. Before sharing any personal information, weigh the reasons why you’re choosing to disclose it. Does it relate to the task at hand? Will it help further the progress of that task? Are you trying to establish trust or encourage better collaboration? Revealing personal stories about yourself should serve a purpose other than making friends at work. That’s often the byproduct of getting to know coworkers.
3. Keep it honest. When choosing to share personal information, don’t exaggerate the details to make it fit the purpose. Someone will inevitably find out, which won’t do much for your credibility at work. A better option is to go with the truth, and use it to convey the message you’re hoping for.
4. Take stock of the organizational culture. Not every company operates the same. Talk to colleagues about the level of candor normally observed in the organization. Ask someone in HR for more information about policies and procedures. You don’t necessarily want to share too much when it goes against the organizational culture. Your goal is to be yourself, not to be yourself at the expense of your reputation.
5. Use caution with personal stories. Getting too intimate won’t help you build relationships at work. In fact, it goes against many of the sociocultural norms of the workplace. It also can make people feel uncomfortable, and that’s not the best way to establish a rapport with anyone. Pay attention to how open others are around you before dipping your toes into that water.
6. Respect the necessity for boundaries. Just because a topic isn’t off limits with friends doesn’t mean the same rules apply in the workplace. Even if you’re feeling friendly with colleagues, steer clear of both politics and religion. You may also want to avoid topics related to your health or certain off-hours pursuits depending on the colleague.
When you don’t bring more of yourself to the workplace, you could be missing out on some important opportunities. Clients, for example, aren’t always able to connect with you if you hold too much back. You also risk coming off as fake or trying to hide something, which can lead to missed sales or production goals and a loss in revenue.
Once you bring more of yourself into the workplace, it becomes difficult not to shine. Being true to one’s self is often the reason why certain careers take off while others flounder.
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