There are a lot of attitudes and personality traits that are “good” to have for life in general, but don’t exactly translate well to your professional life. I, for example, am quite feisty when it comes to my beliefs, which I sincerely believe is a great trait to have, although I’ve noticed more recently that it gets me into more trouble than anything when it comes to things like school and work. As much as I want every single place to be my political platform, it has been brought to my attention that it is disruptive in the classroom, and prevents myself and my classmates from doing what we are paying a shit-ton of money to do: learn in accordance with what is outlined on the syllabus, not Mary’s Political Agenda.
I’m still unsure if I want to take this fact sitting down, and I definitely still find myself getting a little fired up during class, and trying to tone it down and turn it into a more “educational” rant that can be related to course objectives. But, in general, I probably shouldn’t be trying to turn school into something it isn’t — it is unfair to my classmates, as much as I don’t like to admit that. (I feel like we have a right to be angry and to talk about it, but that is a topic for a different day.)
This is just one example of things that are good in life, but bad at work. I’ve rounded up a list of “good” personality traits that you should leave at the door when you get to work, and keep out of your professional life.
1. Excessive people-pleasing
In the workplace, it isn’t a bad idea to be a generally good human being, but it might be a bad idea to worry exclusively about pleasing those around you. You are there to do a job, not to make the person next to you your best friend. So, while it is nice to form friendships in the workplace, remember that it isn’t always necessary, and your risking your professional wellbeing to please someone just because you like them probably isn’t your best bet. Example: I had a job that was simply not working out for me financially (or emotionally, tbh) and I panicked and pushed off quitting it because I was so friendly with the person I was working for and didn’t want to disappoint her. In the end, it was unfair to both of us; not being honest with her right away meant that she didn’t have a lot of time to look for a new employee, and I allowed myself to struggle financially because I was too scared to look like a bad friend to her. I’m digging myself out of this hole right now. Sigh.
2. “Letting it slide”
This is similar to the last point, but in a more damaging way. When you are a people-pleaser, aside from just letting little things slip to the side (like having a job with hours you don’t like), you’re more likely to find yourself in a dangerous job situation. I once had a job working with a young boy who had special needs and was twice my size. He became physically violent with me a few times, but I shrugged it off and didn’t tell anyone because I was pretending that it wasn’t a big deal. “Letting it slide” was a part of my cool-girl-who-doesn’t-get-mad-at-anything persona (lol, those were the days), and it put me in an unsafe situation because I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. Eventually, I had gotten hurt enough that I had to speak up, and I’m glad I did, because it could have gotten so much worse.
While it is certainly a good personality trait to be somewhat easygoing not not bothered by every little thing, being agreeable is not more important than advocating for yourself, especially when your health and safety are on the line.
It is definitely a plus to be a person who keeps their life meticulously scheduled and organized, but there’s a lot of downside to being a total perfectionist. Life in general changes so quickly in such big ways, and this rule absolutely carries over to the professional world. If you are someone who is ridiculously Type-A and has a hard time relinquishing control in fear of something getting slightly messed up or changed, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try to incorporate a little bit of a “go with the flow” attitude into your life, lest you lose your sanity over a canceled meeting.
4. Too much “go with the flow”
This is in direct contrast with the last point. I am certainly high-anxiety and super-controlling about a few things in life, but for the most part, I’ve always been very comfortable allowing things to happen around me and kind of just figuring it out as I go. I accepted, at some point, that life is pretty random and sometimes you have to just relax and take things as they come. The problem with this in the workplace is that it can often make you come across as uninterested or unmotivated. If I’m not a little shaken up by a big change or stressful event in my work-life, was I really that deeply engaged in what I was doing before? Was I truly laser-focused on my task if I shrugged and said “whatever” when it suddenly shifted? The answer is most likely no. Being cool with change is one thing – being so cool with whatever happens that you seem uninterested and like you don’t care may actually cost you your job. Chances are, your employers want passionate, hardworking, connected, highly-motivated employees – not ones who couldn’t give a shit what happens at work.