We’ve always been told to be ourselves in every situation – after all you can’t be anyone else but is there a time and a place to be yourself when you’re at work or even outside of work with your co-workers or should you adapt to situations?
There are situations in and outside of work where being yourself can backfire. A study by Professor Herminia Ibarra (https://www.forbes.com/sites/averyblank/2019/03/05/get-a-sponsor-not-a-mentor-3-steps-to-skyrocket-your-career/#5f8fbd2f1238) suggests that people who have been promoted are at risk of failing in their new role if they have a fixed idea of their own ‘authentic’ personality. Rather than adapting their behaviour to fit their changed status, they carry on exactly as before. For instance, someone who sees themselves as open and friendly may share too much of their thoughts and feelings, thus losing credibility and effectiveness, she explains.
The truth is, the people who thrive in situations professionally and personally are those who are themselves but can adapt to behave appropriately in different situations. You wouldn’t behave the same way with a friend you’ve known for 20 years and your boss – would you?
Similarly, as a leader your role is to lead and be a role model professionally – not behave as you do with your friends down the pub. If you want the respect of a leader you must act like one at the office as well as when with colleagues outside the office – they don’t stop noticing your behaviour after 6pm.
According to a recent issue of organization science, social chameleons may hold the secret to achieving career success http://prime-core.com/becoming-a-workplace-chameleon-for-career-success/. These social chameleons tend to be more sought after for assistance and in collaborative environments. The research then goes onto say…
‘Surprisingly, people who act as ‘chameleons’ in the work place do not necessarily exhibit extroversion or even agreeableness. Specifically, extroverts don’t seem to be sought after for advice and are only people who claim they have many friends in the workplace. The study shows that ‘social chameleons’ do not claim to have more friends than others, but more people claim them as friends. In addition to extroversion, agreeable people sometimes seem to have opinions that are easily swayed and are therefore undependable for help and advice. Similarly, a disorganised, neurotic person may not have the consistency or organisation to provide reliable advice with a work product.’
Adapting is all about assessing the situation around you and analysing the culture of the company you work with.
Our advice: Be a Chameleon – a genuine, ethical one but a Chameleon none the less.