Are you too formal at work?

In his Monday morning session at #SHRM14, Steve Browne urged those attending his session to be themselves at all times, even at work! Now I know this may frighten some of you as much as the thought of missing out on the latest iPad giveaway in the exhibition hall. This should not be a scary prospect, even in a formal environment. After all, if you are not yourself, then you are either a fake or a poor imitation of someone else.

My current organization tends to be quite formal in their approach to systems, people, and communication. This formality was quite a change for me from my previous workplace and my own informal approach has caught some people off guard. Previous HR leaders in the organization rarely left the administration building, interacted minimally, and relied on the hammer of power to get their way. Needless to say, this is not my way and rather than bend to the formality, I am out of my office, talking to people, and building bonds that go well beyond the formal structure that is in place.

When I requested permission to send an organizational wide e-mail, it was met with a bit of uncertainty. Rarely did anyone do this in the past. I tend to be very open in information sharing (oooh, it’s confidential…) and assume that people want to do the right thing. This is a powerful combination that requires faith in others and ultimately faith in yourself that you are embarking on the right path.

This is the minion who lives in my office! It’s part of who I am.

Here’s the thing though, it works! Even in a formal organization, by connecting with people on a personal level the formality may exist but it gets tempered and allows the work to happen on a level that formal structure and policy can’t dictate. Yes, one may have positional authority, but that shouldn’t mean that is the only way you can get work accomplished.

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, find a process that typically requires formality and break it down so that a new, more informal and personal approach can be used. Run with it and get to know people and connect with them on a personal level. It doesn’t hurt and will bring a new sense of enjoyment and engagement to you and your work. After all, life is too short to be miserable!

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