I don’t know about you, but it took me a while to realise, “not everyone is going to get me” and that’s ok.. You work that out generally in your 20s with your friendship groups but at work it always seems a bit trickier. We are thrown together with people, many of whom are different from you, which should be a really positive thing. However some people don’t always see it that way and you may feel pressure to change your behaviour, to dull your shine to fit in. Sometimes that can make perfect sense, we don’t want you hollering “whoop there it is” whilst roller blading around the office (but that would be fun) and there is office etiquette for obvious reasons. You know though when you stand out, when you are different from other people and you know when people embrace that and when people don’t. So how do you be yourself without completely absorbing into “corporate spice” (the lesser known spice girl)?
Sometimes you are not made to blend in, whether that’s the way you look, or sound or your ideas or more often than not your confidence in yourself, these things can annoy people. Insecure people are threatened by confidence and difference, it’s easier for everyone to conform to their ideals. Even when I was being bullied at high school I never really thought I should change I just couldn’t see why they didn’t like me. Maybe my voice was to soft and my mannerisms too camp, but hey I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I never felt the need to assimilate I was always “just do you”. To some people that can be threatening. We are taught from an early age in school ways to behave and ideals based on our gender and not to question authority and to blend in.. But why shouldn’t we in learning question everything.. Doesn’t that make us inquisitive rather than disobedient.. These behaviours can be mirrored in the work place. Supportive bosses will encourage new ideas and debate and develop you as the next generation of leaders. Other bosses may find this threatening and going against the status quo. It’s finding that balance between getting ahead on your own merit and not alienating or pissing off your superiors…you need to manage their expectations whilst being the authentic you. There are number of studies about the importance of authenticity in the work place and authenticity makes people be happier at work and work more productively. Diverse and different teams make successful teams.. Companies should embrace that as it makes total business sense, but people often still recruit in their own image. Unconscious bias training in companies is essential to look at this and to ensure that the best person not the person you think you would be friends with gets the job.
If you find yourself sticking out, when you realise you are not part of the gang, realise that that is ok. Think about the job you are doing.. And make sure you are doing a brilliant job.. Check with your manager what they want and when they want it and over deliver..If you are different this can be used as an excuse to find fault in work.. So don’t give them that excuse.. Also steer conversations to common ground and kill people with kindness. Remember you were hired to do the job and you got the job on merit, and you are doing a great job.
There is somewhere for everyone and if you feel unvalued and unheard then maybe the place isn’t for you.. . Ask yourself what am I getting from this role. What am I willing to put up with.. Is this part of my career plan? Oh and the world would be a very dull place if we were all the same. So let your freak flag fly, and just do you! It can be tough being an individual but there is only one you.. So don’t pretend to be someone else