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September 7, 2018
Why It's (Mostly) Ok to Have a Different Personality at Work

Do you bring your true self to work?

Psychologist Andrea Liner, PsyD, says it’s natural for people to take on slightly different personas at work and at home. After all, our work and home environments place different expectations on us and require us to adapt our behavior. But changing your personality too much can cause you to become stressed and feel disconnected, or even depressed. This is especially true if your work persona is at odds with your true personality.

Why dual personas?

It’s common for people to alter their personas to suit different environments. If you’re a naturally gregarious, loud, outgoing person who likes telling jokes and swearing, that behavior may be considered inappropriate in the workplace and will need to be hampered. “At work, one likely needs to be viewed as professional, and so you are likely to mute the louder parts of your personality in order to come across as grounded and reliable,” says Liner. While at home, because you don’t feel the risk of being fired for inappropriate office behaviour, you feel free to express yourself without consequence.

Your personality may also differ according to your surroundings. We tend to mimic the behavior of those we spend time with in order to fit in. If your work environment is at odds with your true personality or differs greatly from your home environment, you may find the need to alter your personality in order to fit in better.

When adjusting your personality is harmful

Liner says most of us do make small adjustments to our personalities in order to fit in better at work. “It’s normal to act more reserved and professional in the workplace, but as long as it’s still a version of who you truly are, you just mellowed out a bit, it shouldn’t be a problem,” says Liner. Where this behavior can be harmful, though, is when you are behaving in a manner that is completely at odds with your usual personality. “It’s exhausting to feel like you’re acting all the time, and it can be hard to keep it up forever,” says Liner.

This type of behavior can lead to negative psychological consequences including anxiety and depression. “Authenticity is a huge component of successful interpersonal relationships. It can be very hard to feel connected with people to whom you are inauthentic, especially if that involves remembering lies or excessive details,” says Liner. If you feel you are being inauthentic all the time, you may soon feel that all of your interactions are fake.

Who are you, really?

If you feel that your home and work personality are radically different, you may struggle to find your true identity. To find your true self, Liner suggests paying attention to where you feel most natural and comfortable, and which settings leave you feeling more exhausted. “Noticing where you feel most relaxed and energized is a great way to see what components are the most authentically you,” says Liner.

If you’re naturally an introverted person but feel forced to be outgoing and social in your job, you may find yourself more exhausted at the end of the workday, or feeling mentally stressed, anxious, and needing time alone in the evenings.

Next, ask yourself whether your career or work environment is truly a good fit for you. “If it feels impossible to be yourself at work, and it causes you significant stress, it may be worth reassessing to see if you would be happier and more productive in a different work environment,” says Liner.

Finally, ask yourself what your constant values are. If those values aren’t at play at work and at home, acting in a way that contradicts those internal values will likely cause psychological conflict in the form of anxiety or depression.

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