When I try to explain to someone new to the work place, or about to leave school how they should behave in the workplace I try to keep it simple … but the reality is that it is not simple.
I am actually probably not a great role model for behaviour in the office, because as a bit of a joker I can play tricks on people that would in many places be deemed to be unprofessional. the difference is that as CEO and owner I have more leeway than most when it comes to behaviour. More on that later.
Let me try to give examples of different characters, some of whom are welcome in the work place, some are not …
Try this on for size ….
1. I grew up in inner city Liverpool during an era when skinhead gangs were fairly prevalent. The demeanor I portrayed growing up was designed to give off a “I can take care of myself” message … it was aggressive, cocky and not at all friendly to those who I did not know.
So “Liverpool Kevin” would not be a character who would be welcome in the office environment.
2. I played soccer my whole life. I played it with a passion and a determination to win that sometimes came out in an aggressive way.
So “Soccer Kevin” might actually have some positive traits (desire to win and passion) that would do well in the work place. However the physical or verbal aggression are never welcome in the workplace.
3. When I relax with my family at home I will discuss all of the personal and normal life things one discusses with one’s family. It really isn’t appropriate in the workplace to be discussing all of your personal “stuff”. My colleagues do not need to be bored or distracted by details of a messy divorce, or a wild night on the town.
So … “Personal Kevin” needs to be more guarded in the workplace.
4. When I am on my best behaviour to impress someone … maybe it was a date’s parents, or it could have been a job interview or some authority figure that I respected … I am much nearer to the “Professional Kevin” that I want to portray.
5. When I am with acquaintances I let my guard down a little, have some fun and perhaps tell jokes etc. I still don’t tell them all about the details of my personal life, but the situation is more relaxed than when i am on my bets behaviour. This sort of behaviour is acceptable as “Professional Kevin“. I do also have to be guarded and know just where the barriers are, so that I don’t cross them.
6. When I am discussing political arguments with friends, or contentious issues I will perhaps be passionate with my opinions and sometimes the arguments can get loud, but not aggressive. Some people think that “Argumentative Kevin” is OK, but I think that any time you “get loud” you are crossing the line into unacceptable behaviour … certainly it does happen, we are all human but that doesn’t make it right.
“Professional Kevin” will be passionate but reasoned, he will dress appropriately for his environment and he will focus his efforts on the work he is paid to do. He won’t distract his colleagues with personal “stuff”, he will treat all of those around him with respect. He will learn to bite his lip and listen more than he talks. He will have the best interests of his employer at heart, knowing that by always doing his best he is becoming ever more valuable to his current and future employers.
Back to the real me … yes I joke in the office and in the strictest terms it probably is not very CEO-like. Having said that, I am comfortable that during my career I have established enough professional credibility to get away with a few personality quirks. I also feel that we spend way too much time at work for it to be all dull and no fun.
I wouldn’t advise new employees to rock that boat until they are a little more established and have had a chance to “get the lay of the land”. Model your behaviour on the leaders around you and slowly introduce your own character into the workplace … just make sure it isn’t “Obnoxious You” 🙂