Sometimes, I think back on early career lessons. It’s amazing how someone says something when you’re young that doesn’t make sense until you’re older. My very first job was working for General Motors. I was nineteen, working as an engineer while I was a student. My boss pulled me aside. He said words that I’ll never forget, but that didn’t fully make sense at the time.
He said that in the corporate world, there is often a sort of personality trait that’s preferred. It’s a more aggressive, loud tone. He pointed out that my working style was different. It was more subtle. I persuaded people with persistence and patience. He said that one day, someone at work would try to encourage me to change away from my nature style. But, I should resist. My natural style works well, and there is space for me. Don’t change it.
As I’ve grown through my career, I’ve witnessed the sentiment he was referencing. I’ve heard people say things about how introverts aren’t welcome at specific companies. Extroverts are where it’s at. I’ve seen bosses try to imprint their aggressive style on their employees.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for self-development. But, when you’re learning to be your best self, you should still come out yourself in the end. You should not morph into another person with another style. And, there’s no one style or personality type that’s the right one.
So often, when we struggle, we beat ourselves up. We focus on our weaknesses rather than our strengths. Very often, this energy can be better used by trying to get better at our natural strengths, rather than to fix all of our weaknesses. But, that misses the point a bit, doesn’t it? Being your true self is not a weakness. Being your true self is what you have to bring to the table.
If your company is trying to change you, take a little time to digest the criticism. Does the feedback represent a real and actionable issue that you can correct? For example, perhaps you are often late to meetings. This is a real issue that should be corrected.
On the other hand, is the feedback more about your personality or style just being different than the mainstream culture? If that’s the case, start to think about your results. Are you getting your work done? Are you meeting your goals? If not, perhaps it’s time to come up with new ideas. But, if you are meeting your goals, the feedback may be more about your fit within the corporate culture.
In the last year, we have talked a lot about diversity and inclusion. Diversity is about having a seat at the table. Inclusion is about being able to bring your whole self to work. It’s about being accepted, despite differences you may have. At the end of the day, you need to be true to you.