Everyone has a personality that becomes apparent within a short while after they are introduced. We have heard many times the suggestion. “You have only one opportunity to make a first impression.” The first impression will likely be made upon your appearance that will be amplified or amended by your speech and attitude. 60 years ago, I worked in a maintenance department that was the entry level for employees in a certain service company. One day, a very nice looking young man joined our force. I was really impressed.
A week or two later, I wondered what happened to him as I didn’t see him anymore. It came to me as a surprise, that this very favorably impressive man was that very vulgar person who used profanity and sexual innuendo at every opportunity. In some social settings, the excessive use of the 6th letter of our alphabet is used in such a casual way that it seems to have become ‘normal’ speech. I know a person who came home from college and showed off her new vocabulary by frequent use of the word. Her mother objected and the daughter asserted that this was common language. Her mother replied; “Not in this house!”
Actually, this kind of language is very ‘infectious’, especially if you are trying to identify with a new group, such as a college society. The reason may be to identify with a new group of peers, or to appear to be ‘modern’ and even sophisticated. We hear this word deleted in televised news reports as movie stars, public officials and other notables are ‘bleeped’. The very idea that public radio and television finds it necessary to remove the language by covering it up with a sound should be a huge clue regarding acceptability of the word.
There are other verbal traps that degrade your ability to advance professionally. Telling obscene jokes and making ‘cute’ remarks about people’s bodies may be acceptable and even ‘good’ in some segments of society, but you can’t afford to offend anyone if you want to advance in your profession.
Just remember; decent language doesn’t offend anybody. If we want to advance, we must be aware that social good impressions are often more effective than work performance in determining advancement, especially when you are competing against others for an advanced position. Out language makes a huge social impression.
Another big personality element is our political expressions. Since we are a politically divided society, it is wise to keep a low political profile (unless your work is in politics, of course.) Don’t have political bumper stickers on your car. In fact, don’t have any bumper stickers on your car as they reveal more about yourself that you need to expose. The more you are identified as one who is proficient at your work and less about personal and controversial issues, the better your personality will serve your advancement.
Of course, there are many other things that influence your ‘personality’. Body piercing, tattoos and radical hair styles may be ‘good’ by some standard in certain social groups, but they are by no means broadly accepted. If you want to advance, avoid such personal expressions. Again, nobody is offended by the lack of a tattoo or body piercing. You may defend these practices all you want, still the fact remains; you can’t afford to offend people if you want to succeed. Remember, it is not your judgment on the issue that counts, it is theirs. Unless you want to be a ‘Joan of Arc’ and sacrifice yourself for a cause, you must be very conservative in your demeanor so people will recognize you as a ‘professional’ and not as; “Here comes that loud mouth”, or some other personality trait.
Young people are foolish when they submit themselves to permanent changes in the presentation of their body. It may be that ‘everybody does it’ in your current social environment, but unless you intend to be a college student forever, this encumbrance can be very costly in a future employment situation. Again, it is not yours to decide if such things will be or should be acceptable as ‘normal’. Your employer is liable to be of a different generation from yours and he has the privilege and responsibility to make decisions based on his own values, not yours.
Nobody is offended by the lack of tobacco use. Unless your employer uses tobacco with you, stay away from it in your work environment. The same elements apply to religious expression. Your private religious beliefs and expression may be laudable, but aggressive proselytizing does not fit in a secular work environment. Personally, I believe that, in most work situations, it is good to make some kind of expression regarding our values, but overt ‘preaching’ can only hurt your professional image. I know people who read their bible of ‘company time’. They defend this practice as ‘good’ when they are actually stealing from their employer.
What jokes make you laugh? What comments do you make to or about ‘the opposite sex’? A smile may be always appropriate, but a leer is not. Control your hormones or they will control you.
Practice accepting every person as they are and who they are. When it comes to a matter of taste, hold your verbal judgment. You can convey your disapproval of bad language, for instance, by your subtle silent response (body language) or lack of response. Practice saying supportive things to your coworkers. Look for legitimate complimentary things that you can say when you meet and greet people.
Don’t make a ‘big deal’ over your personal problems. Don’t seek sympathy if you have a headache, for instance. Don’t burden your fellow workers with your family problems. Keep them at home as much as possible. This means that your children seldom call you at work and then only when it is really urgent, such as a medical emergency that can’t wait until you get home.
I counseled a small business that was not doing well. They had frequent business meetings in the evenings. One of the members was ‘always’ interrupted during these meetings by phone calls from her children. The meeting was ‘on hold’ until the person returned. Sometimes the phone calls would last for an hour or more. They asked me as to what they could do about the situation. I am sure that they were so close to the problem that they couldn’t see it clearly, or they would have not needed my input.
I suggested that they establish some rules. One of the rules was – if anyone is called away, the meeting continues with those present and notes will be taken, including decisions made, for the benefit of the missing person. They applied my solution and the problem was greatly relieved.
They had another problem for which they wanted my advice. Their business meetings lasted long into the night because some of the participants were very ‘long winded’.
I suggested that they use a timer. When a subject is discussed, the timer is set for 5 minutes when one person starts to speak on an issue and when the timer sounds the current speaker is finished. This compels each participant be well organized in their response before they take up the time of each participant. They applied this solution which produced some interesting results; the meetings were much shorter and a speaker, watching the timer, would talk faster in order to get his statement finished before the timer cut him off. Actually, 5 minutes is plenty of time to respond to most propositions if the response is well thought out.
Another very important consideration is to always be on time for work. It is even better if you arrive early, so you are organized and ready to work at the appointed time. The implicit message given by a habitually tardy worker is that your time is more important than the requirements of your employment. You imply that you are more important than your boss. This problem is discussed in more detail in the chapter on ‘surviving difficult people’. You are contracted to be present and working during your set hours, and even though you may be able to ‘get away with it’, this practice can severely degrade your reputation and qualifications for advancement.
Some people have psychological problems in this area of their life. They may need professional help to sufficiently overcome the problem. The basic problem is usually that they do not know who they are. This theme is repeated over and over in this book. For more development of this attribute, read the article on ‘surviving yourself’ as this is usually the basic problem behind nearly all of the other social and professional problems that people have.
There are natural characteristics that are called ‘temperament’. This is a very broad and very old approach, first organized by the ancient Greek philosopher, Hypocrites. The four basic temperaments are Choleric, Melancholic, Phlegmatic, and Sanguine. Sometimes another temperament is added; ‘Supine’. These people are also called Guardians, Idealists, Artisans, and rationalists. It is generally believed that these characteristics are part of who we are born to be and not acquired such as are ‘character’ attributes.
The following is a very brief overview of the subject. The basic characteristic of Choleric people is that they tend to be aggressive, ‘take charge’ people who automatically assume that they are supposed to be in control of every situation. They tend to be insensitive to the needs and feelings of other people. They are ‘movers and shakers’. They are the ones who have the drive to start a business and the tenacity to ‘keep on keeping on’ until they succeed. Melancholic people are characterized as being thoughtful and caring. They are often artists or musicians. Phlegmatic people tend to be very affectionate, and kind. Sanguine people tend to be very sociable, loving parties and other social gatherings. Nobody is all of one temperament, but we are combinations of two or more temperaments.
The reason that this information is included here is that a basic understanding of these differences will help a person to advance socially and professionally if they realize that other people such as their coworkers and supervisors are not so much ‘wrong’ as they are ‘different.’ As a progressing professional you can be equipped with valuable tools if you can identify these qualities in yourself and others.
An excellent resource on this subject is; A book by Dr. Tim Lehay - ‘The Spirit Controlled Temperament’.