Why can’t I be myself at work?

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This week my Instagram theme is Coats.  As I was thinking of possible blog post ideas to go along with coats, I kept coming back to the idea of putting something on our exterior.  In the winter, a coat is the first impression you give to others, but they are expensive.  People don’t own different coats for different moods like they do with tops.  Full disclosure: some of the coats shown this week are my sisters.

I am hoping my loyal readers are catching onto my ties to fashion and deeper topics.  This week it is the concept of our exteriors.  Specifically unraveling our exteriors at work.  With all of the changes happening in the workplace, I beg for the following standards to be down trending. 

We should not have to be different people at work.  I should be able to be me while also performing well and having a great work ethic.  It is what I am doing already, just hiding it.  The double life ends up being really difficult.  I end up altering my natural reactions to many situations just to fit into the corporate culture.  Please allow me to elaborate.

If there is a work conflict, the expectation is that you “bubble it up” to your boss and they handle it.  Another option is to tell HR and they handle it.  I wish there was an option for me to handle it myself.  I am a functioning adult in society.  I navigate conflict in relationships all of the time.  If I am unsuccessful, it seems like a great time for a boss or mentor to teach me other ways to handle the situations.  I think this updated method has two major perks.  

Number 1: The situation can be handled the way you would like.  It does not need to escalate into a bigger conversation where bosses are involved.  Managing through confrontation successfully helps show leadership skills and the potential to be a great boss.  It can also strengthen your work relationships, network, and reputation because there will always be difficulties at work.  There will always be something to deal with and if you show early on that you can handle the responsibility, your career may be rewarded earlier than if you let someone else handle it.  

Number 2: It becomes a learning moment to help train future managers to deal with conflict.  Only allowing bosses and HR to navigate conflict means we are never trained on how to deal with it.  By doing this, when someone is eventually the boss who needs to handle a situation for themselves or their direct reports, they will be wildly unprepared.  This makes it highly possible your manager may not handle the situation in the way you would have wished.        

Work is the only place where someone can disrespect you to your face and you are expected to hold your tongue.  You cannot speak for yourself.  It is unnatural to feel empowered and confident in your personal life and expected to leave that piece of you at home each day because that is not how the corporate world works.  It is time for a change.  If you are unable to navigate through conflict on your own, then the workplace could teach you a skill that would tremendously improve your personal life.   I would argue that more often than not, people can manage it on their own.

I am a full supporter of having some information remain private in the workplace.  I do not think your co-workers need to know how drunk you were over the weekend.  I do not think people need to hear about your unhappy marriage or a number of other really uncomfortable personal facts.  

I do think that you should be able to have your full personality.  I do think you are entitled to feel all of your emotions.  I do think you should be able to react to situations the same way that you would if it were not in the workplace.      

We are spending our personal time on self-awareness, self-growth, and mindfulness.  We are inspired to learn to be better managers than the ones we were saddled with.  We should be given the opportunity to use our skills in the workplace.

Now, since I do not work in HR, I have no idea how we could possibly change workplace culture.  Sounds like we need a movement.  I will start thinking of names for the hashtag.   

In the meantime, if you are not someone who has read a book or taken a course on conflict management, you should.  It is worthwhile.  There are so many types of people who have different backgrounds.  There is more than one way to manage conflict.  It is a skill that will help enhance your work-life and your personal life.  Trust me.

CHALLENGE: If a conflict arises at work, ask your manager if you can handle it.  Suggest your plan of action and see how it goes.  I am hoping that we can start to change the culture one manager at a time.