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Thread: Professionalism v friendliness

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Professionalism v friendliness

    I've had some disturbing insights at work lately, namely that the director of my office seems to be wary of me because of my friendly, casual manners.

    I want to be clear that I have not been unprofessional in the sense of acting or saying anything inappropriate. However, what my husband calls my "west coast egalitarianism" and lively personality may be at odds with what my boss considers to be poised and professional. I seem to have misread the office culture, or perhaps just misread my boss.

    It would be hard for cyburbians to weigh in on whether I am correct in my concerns, or whether my demeanor has been appropriate, but I am curious how other planners balance formality, heirarchy, friendliness, professionalism etc.

    Can anyone share insight from the trenches?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    What is "friendliness?"

    There are many degrees of "friendliness" and what can be difficult to know is where the accepted line lies in a particular office, or wider culture. Do you define friendliness as an attitude (open and helpful) or personality (bubbly, constant smile on the edge of laugh, etc.)?

    When you pass ANYONE on the street in Botswana you greet them. If you come to the bus stop and don't greet those already there, someone will come forward, with considerable concern and ask if you are ill, or something dreadful has happened. By contrast in Sweden children are taught not to say anything to anyone, and definitely not to strangers on the street.

    In professional circles it is important to be courteous and helpful, and in my mind, willing to offer information or legitimate assistance, without being asked first. Smiles are important. Cracking jokes in many situations is not, unless there is a brewing conflict and relief is needed to regain objectivity. But I suppose any intimation, through your general manner, that you are willing to go beyond the legitimate as a favour to someone you don't even know might be considered a little too friendly - especially if it's done in a gushy or bubbley kind of exhuberance. And how is the body language in relation to the verbal expression?

    But it's also a two way street: your boss might be a surly old ****, or s/he could be someone who secretly wishes s/he had a bubblier personality and resents anyone who does. If s/he is an open and generous, happy self, the limit on your behavious might be quite different.

    I'd like to know if you think the lines are different for men and women, and if they depend on whether the customer/client is the same or opposite gender?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    I think that there may be some unintended sexism involved. Men are by nature, more serious in their demeanor and less inclined to be overtly social. Some men may percieve a woman as being less professional and perhaps even flighty if she has a bubbly and friendly personality. The best planner in our office is a beguiling young woman who is very social and friendly. Some people who come into the office will ask to see a planner and are surprised when she says she is a planner. She has even been told to get a "male planner, please."

    When one of my favorite applicants had a subdivision to do and I couldn't work with them, I recommended my fellow planner. They were pleased with her. She is very professional, thorough and even tough. But she is also fair, smart and has great people skills. She is a person whose professional opinion I trust more than any other in our office. She is rarely wrong.

    I share an office with her. I enjoy her company. On the days she is gone, the office is quieter and I, an introvert, finds it easier to get work done outside of the storm that is her presence. But I miss her, too. She is one of the people that makes my job more bearable.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Dont change for anyone, as long as you arent being rude, obnoxious, not PC....so be it.

    Stuffy workplaces are a dead end. i started out in one, and I'm so glad i got out of there.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Having good, friendly, professional relationships with people is what makes me love my job. I don't think you can separate the two terms and be good at your job. I worked with a woman who thought she was "professional" with applicants; unfortunately, people hated her because she wasn't friendly enough. I worked with another guy who wanted to be everyone's best friend: he irritated everyone because he wouldn't give people tough answers, and it always came back to bite him, applicants, and other staff.

    Its all about balance. Be friendly if that's your personality. It'll make you much happier in your job. Be professional and get the job done well. It will also make you much happier in your job.

    It sounds as if the issue is more your relationship with your boss... that might take a tough, professional, and friendly conversation initiated by you. Good luck.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    I'm the same way The other people in my office are much more taciturn, but I gotta be me. I'm always laughing, joking around with the surveyors, applicants, etc. It puts them at ease and allows them to trust me. You can't be best friends or anything, but hey, you gotta be there 8 hours a day, why make it suck?
    Do you want to pet my monkey?

  7. #7
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by KSharpe View post
    I'm the same way The other people in my office are much more taciturn, but I gotta be me. I'm always laughing, joking around with the surveyors, applicants, etc. It puts them at ease and allows them to trust me. You can't be best friends or anything, but hey, you gotta be there 8 hours a day, why make it suck?
    this is the post of the day -

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    I would definitely agree that you have to be yourself You spend the normal 8 hours at work and with evening meetings and sometimes weekends, you usually end up spending more than 8hours
    Naturally there are some guidelines that we are all expected to observe in the workplace.
    But I would think that a person who is helpful andcheerful would be considered and asset. My personal and professional belief is that happy and cheerful people are productive people. They also tend to be more team oriented and more gets accomplished by helping each other
    People who are grousers and/or do not like their job are not likely to give a hundred percent. I know, I know there are exceptions to every rule.
    Maybe the supervisor has other problems or quite possibley has had no supervisory training. College usually does not provide it.
    So quite often some one who is technically good at their job is promoted to supervision and has no idea what they are supposed to do or how to motivate people.
    I have been very lucky that I was provided with supervison training, first in the military, and then later by an employer who sent a group of us off to special training and again later by an employer, who when you reached a certain level in the system, you were automatically sent to advanced supervision training. the advanced supervision training was with a large diverse group of people including General Motors excutives among others.
    So as you are promoted, take advantage of supervision training,
    In the meantime, if you can find in within yourself, feel sorry for the poor sod. He has to be a miserable person

  9. #9
    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    this is the post of the day -
    Wow, an award! Woo hoo!
    Do you want to pet my monkey?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    There is also chemistry. For whatever reason, my boss and I don't click as well as other people in the office. Doesn't mean we can't get the job done, and I still get great annual reviews, but we just don't click, and I gave up a long time ago trying to tamper with that.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    I am willing to fly in, unannounced and assess the situation in person, for a small nominal fee. Call it a consulting seminar...can we get AICP credit for this? Seriously, as a left coaster, we tend to be, shall we say amused by work? We like to go to work, and the majority of people we interact are people we enjoy seeing. We are extroverts to no end...(think Van Wilder). However, I have seen is kind of familiarity go over like a ton of bricks with some people. I agree in being yourself, and acting appropriately, just in case. And then propose Flip-Flop Friday as a morale booster...just as a test...

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Thanks, everyone, for your input. I do feel a bit better, because I do want to be myself. . . I like my personality, personally.

    But part of my uneasiness here is that while I pride myself on being aware, intuitive, and responsive, it took me a while to figure out that I wasn't coming across well to my boss. And this lack of sensitivity to whatever mixture of class and personality dynamics that is embodied in this situation makes me doubt my ability to navigate the tricky world of office heirarchy and politics.

    So, I guess I do the best I can in my current job, and try to choose better and navigate more wisely in my next one. I'll be starting a job search soon, since I'm graduating. . . it is daunting to add workplace culture to the list of job-hunting criteria. How does one go about determining a good fit?

  13. #13
    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    Its so hard to say, they're all on their best behavior at interviews (as are we). Personally, I think its a crapshoot.
    Do you want to pet my monkey?

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Plan 9's avatar
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    A lot of how people view you has to do with their background. I.e. if it is a male and he wears a hat every time he goes outside (excepting cowboy hats and baseball caps, that is something else altogether) then a bubbly personality is probably not going to go over well at work with them...one of those generational things.

    Anyway, you can only be what you are. If your personality causes you too much grief at work, for whatever reason, might be time to look for somewhere that accepts you the way you are. You will be much happier in the end (even someone that has a terminally pessimistic personality would be ! )

    How do you find such a place? Hmmm, talk off line to people who already work there, or maybe go in before the interview pretending to pick up an application or something and see how people are acting. Or just keep moving around until it feels right, sometimes it takes a year for the honeymoon to wear off so you can see what it is really like.
    "Future events such as these will affect you in the future."

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