In the middle of a seminar, this participant, Sama, stood up and asked me: “Can I lose my job for being myself?”
Without any hesitancy, my response was, “YES – but that depends on what you mean by being yourself.”
“What is YOURSELF?”
“Well, I am very frank and honest about things and I just want to say how I feel!”
There is nothing wrong with being frank and honest but expressing your views frankly and honestly requires several good foundations or else you may be interpreted as a trouble maker quite quickly.
The truth is that everything about “being ourselves” has to do with WHO is receiving US and our message because we don’t work in isolation. What is perfectly fine with a pair of colleagues in one setting may not be acceptable in another setting. A very exuberant person with a lively personality may be a disastrous fit in a place where everyone is very serious or can also be a pleasant addition.
If Sama works with a manager who by nature is afraid of confrontation, does not like to be challenged and thinks only within the box, then if Sama, by being herself, constantly challenges her manager, deals with things upfront and in an honest, frank way, it will inevitably create feelings of discomfort for the manager. Eventually, if it is not addressed, tension can easily escalate between the two – not because they are incompetent, but because the two personalities cannot receive each other’s messages.
If Sama works in an environment that has created a culture to share opinions, debate about issues, think outside of the box, then there will be likely less problems because a foundation has been set to accommodate various opinions and beliefs. This type of environment moves away from dealing with things as “personal” and rather sees all viewpoints as important in creating the whole.
My job gives me the opportunity to listen to people’s stories around employment issues – why they are having challenges in finding employment and the challenges around retaining employment. I have come to a few observations, which I will pose in the form of questions:
Are you in the right job?
Unfortunately, many people are in the wrong jobs which is sometimes no fault of theirs, in the effort to survive. The tasks of the job does not feed their soul, does not bring a sense of joy or balance to their spirits. We see this often with newcomers to Canada, where in some cases it is impossible for them to work in their field of expertise due to licensure and other requirements.
- Keep on trying to explore opportunities which may help you to do what is truly meaningful to you. In some cases, it may require for you to find volunteering opportunities.
- Put the situation in perspective and come to an understanding and acceptance of the situation and see the other benefits to the job for example, that you are able to pay your bills and provide for your family.
- Think outside of the job and ask yourself questions such as “What is my soul mission in this lifetime?” You may be able to engage in other activities which allows you to fulfil yourself – and some of these opportunities may exist where you already work!
- Engage in mentorship, networking and community/ educational activities to expand your knowledge, profile and various competencies.
Are you aligned with the organization?
Unfortunately, many people have not taken the time to ALIGN themselves with the organization/company that they work with. When you become an employee, it is NOT about YOU, although YOU need to know your own values to know whether or not you are the right fit. It is about meeting the needs of the employer. However, if the needs of the employer are closely aligned to your own skill set and personality, then your work life/balance becomes easier.
Ask questions to help figure out what your priorities should be.
Ask about organizational culture and how things are done.
Ask about what is NOT acceptable behaviour in teams and within the organization.
Think of the tasks that need to be done and see how these align to your own skills. During a conversation with someone recently he said “I am still trying to figure out where I fit. However, I spend time doing all the things that most people don’t like doing, because I enjoy doing trivial things…. now I am becoming well-known, appreciated and quite valued in the company.” He has figured it out!!!
- Consider doing some cross-cultural exploration and even some communication skills training. Sometimes, simple things are not always understood from one culture to the next. For example, a person from a culture that thinks that not speaking up in polite, may lose his job for not speaking up in a culture where is it expected that you speak up.
- Ask for someone to mentor or coach you, especially at the beginning of the job,
Have you taken the time to figure out YOUR BOSS and the people who have a direct ink /impact on the work you do?
Unfortunately, many people only think about THEMSELVES and their jobs in a vacuüm. Very often, the leadership style of the people in charge of the organization, pretty much determines how things are done. If you have a boss who is very strict, very organized, very punctual – then if you mirror that behaviour, it makes it easier to get along. If you are disorganized and always late, the relationship will face some challenges.
- Take a few minutes to figure out the people around you. How would you describe their general patterns at work – are they punctual? Touchy-feely? Quick decision makers? Takes long to move things along? Open? Closed? Stressed? Happy? Unhappy? Logical? Visionaries? Analytical? Family oriented? Friendly? Independent? Team player?
- Which of these behaviours mirror your own? By understanding what makes another person tick, it is possible for us to change some of our behaviours to make accommodations in the relationship.
- Be mindful of the power and control issues. If your boss is laid back and you are pushy and aggressive – keep in mind that at the end of the day, your boss has more power and control than you do!
- What size of an organization would you be happier working in? Small? medium-sized? Large? Maybe you are better at being an entrepreneur?
There are also some general personality traits that fit some jobs better than others. For example, I am by nature a visionary. I see big pictures and can dream big ideas very effortlessly. However, I need support in helping to implement those ideas and the best type of people to help me are those people who are detailed oriented, can analyse quickly and have a sense of reality. The point here is that none of us can work completely in a vacuum because life is not structured like that. However, if we take some time to figure our ourselves and how our work styles impact others, then we may be a in position of empowerment and not feel victimized.
Today, TuneIn to your environment. Are you in alignment? StepUp to explore some more…. you probably don’t have to leave the job… or maybe you do… You may have to make some accommodation to suit your current reality… whatever you do, remember that you do have some control over your choices.