Is it possible (and appropriate) to integrate workplace culture into your personal style?
The YouTube commenter posted, “I wish my family members and friends would respect me and allow me to talk instead of my saying a few words and taking what they want when I was not even finished, or thinking they know what I was trying to say. It really irritates me and that is why I do not converse with other people.”
The student in my IT customer service training session complained that no one takes him seriously. He mumbled when he spoke, his clothing was disheveled, and he looked at the floor when he talked to you. There really wasn’t very much about his demeanor to inspire confidence in him.
If you’re not getting the respect you feel you deserve from others, if people don’t treat you the way you want, if others don’t take your ideas seriously, take a look in the mirror. How do you speak and act in your workplace? How do you think others perceive you? Is your personal style compatible with your workplace culture?
When my stepdaughter Ellie was in middle school and high school, she acted like you would expect from a person of her age. I treated her accordingly. Today, she’s in her upper 20s, she has a bachelor’s degree, has traveled extensively, and is building a great career. She acts like a very successful person. She carries herself with confidence. She dresses professionally. She has developed her interpersonal skills to enable her to work successfully with others. All of my children have matured in much the same way as Ellie. I treat each of them differently today than I did when they were younger, not because they’re older, but because their behavior and mannerisms set the expectation for different (and better) treatment today than when they were children. They act like professional adults, so I treat them like professional adults.
What’s the point? In our society, appearances matter. You may think that’s not fair, and I agree. It’s not fair, but it is reality. People judge us based on how we look and how we act. Workplace culture can be brutal, even in the best of circumstances. You might as well do everything possible to get the odds in your favor. You can dress and act however you want outside of work. When you’re at work, observe how the people around you dress and act. Obviously, workplace culture in a conservative law firm will be considerably different from that in a smoke shop. Work to incorporate as much of your workplace’s culture into your personal style as possible. It’s also important to find a workplace whose culture is a good fit for your personal style and beliefs.
Dr. Travis Bradberry, the author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, recently published a post on a similar topic of likeability or, actually unlikeability. Here’s a link. I especially liked his opening paragraph: “Too many people succumb to the mistaken belief that being likeable comes from natural, unteachable traits that belong only to a lucky few—the good looking, the fiercely social, and the incredibly talented.” Successfully integrating yourself into workplace culture is something nearly anyone can learn to do successfully.
When you combine deep technical competence with strong people skills, excellent listening habits, and sensitivity to your workplace culture, you increase the odds for a successful career.