What you say reveals who you are being at work

May 10 / Rosemary Killip

What you say and how you behave at work reveals a lot about you as a person, or at least the person you want people to see.

Whether that is the authentic you or not, only you can say. We sometimes suppress ourselves in order to fit in. We are one person in our day job and a completely different one outside of work hours. These shields or masks may have formed for good reason. Some behaviour is not acceptable at work. However, over time this can create a stressful anomaly and some of us even forget who we really are.

Are you the bossy boss, the kind, caring workmate? The one who always bakes on someone’s birthday, the office clown, the serious quiet one? Whoever you are be-ing, is it in alignment with the competencies, values and mission of the organisation. Can you look yourself in the mirror after a day’s work and still like yourself? We have all seen colleagues who act entirely differently from what they say they stand for or what the organisation requires of them. Any 360-degree review or performance review will show up these inconsistencies if it is done well. But how to fix?

In some organisations the culture is so engrained it would take a revolution to end behaviours we no longer tolerate as the norm. Workplaces of the past certainly were not as controlled as they are now.  I think back to the comments said to me as a young woman in the 1980s which would be totally unacceptable now. There were also what were seemingly inspiring mantras such as “girls can do anything” but that too created pressure to be superwoman and marginalized some of our colleagues. Did we even want to be called girls?

We each have roles to play on top of our work ones.

Parent, friend, coach, community volunteer, neighbour, workmate, boss, But given how much time we spend at work its weird to think we could spend most of our adult life be-ing someone we are not. We have all seen funny videos of people on video links working from home where they are interrupted by kids, pets or just their domestic circumstance. This has given us another lens on our work colleagues we may never have had before. Maybe you have had a shock to find what you thought about someone has changed now you have glimpsed into their home life?

In today’s workplaces a lot of behaviours and language are entirely unacceptable and we seem to be going through another revolution of looking with a hard lens over the past and the stories we tell of how we got here. It can leave us feeling scared of not knowing what to say for fear of offending someone. So, while the words may be smooth and the smile polite – underneath there are unmet needs of self-expression.

Where do all those pent-up emotions go?

Road rage, mediation, sports field or bar. Listen in to what groups of people talk about when they think its safe to and the real deal comes out that would never be shared in the public workplace.

There are little clues at work. You can hear the frustrated folk in the banging of the keyboard as those keyboard warriors bash out an email response. You get the vibe when you enter a room and you could cut the air with a knife. The rolling of eyes, sighing, huffing and puffing in meetings. The body language in interviews. Just look around you at the body posture at 3pm – is everyone slumped in their chair or still vibrant with energy?

A real test is when an announcement has been made to move seats, desks, or the whole office.  The uproar is telling about what we are like in a pack. Are we a supportive team or desperately holding onto whatever little power we think we have?

The quiet conversations.

The offsite coffee “meetings”.

You see pairs or small groups having a meeting before or after the meeting to plan, dissect or deconstruct whatever has been just agreed upon.

Our work personas interacting with others is like watching a David Attenborough documentary.

like to think we all get on but we don’t.

Working alongside a team of people you don’t like and that don’t like you back can be soul destroying over time. You can end up making up stories about others as they do about you and never really get to know the other person as a person with all of their own strengths, weakness, worries and joys.

We all need to find a safe space to release all the things we want to say at work but feel we can’t.

Sometimes confiding in a loved one is a great way to offload, it may however not be the right choice. They are emotional invested in the situation and may not have the objectivity to give you the right advice as their financial and emotional wellbeing.

Friends may take your mind off your troubles and then get sick of you moaning about work.

Work colleagues – well that could be downright risky depending on the trust in your relationships.

An independent coach or mentor may give you the constructive outlet you need.

Reclaim your power – and rediscover how you can be more of yourself at work.

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