Is it possible to stay true to yourself even when you are in a new role or recently promoted?
Thousands of people in American are glued to their televisions on Sunday night to watch a show called Breaking Bad. It is the story of a science teacher who evolves into a ruthless drug dealer.
Although his story is not necessarily close to the lives that any of us lead, his transformation is parallel to how we operate in organizations every day.
The main character, Walt, begins as a mild-mannered science teacher who is diagnosed with cancer. He only wants to earn enough money to ensure that his family is well taken care of when he dies. Eventually, he becomes a ruthless drug dealer that alienates all the people around him.
There are thousands of examples of individuals who are hired into an organization or promoted into a new role because of their personality, core values, abilities, etc. At some point, those individuals transform from the person they were when hired into the role that they have. They assume that because they have a title there is a requirement that they act in a particular way. One of the folks that I used to work for called that “going native”.
Used humorously, to go native means to take on some (or all) of the culture traits of the people around you, often said of people who go to foreign countries or far away cities. These traits may include dress, language, accent, etiquette, religion, etc.
There is nothing wrong with acclimating to the culture or role that you are in. As a matter of fact it is a smart move. An ancient philosopher once said
(there are literally thousands of great men who have used this phrase). He did not say “when in Rome, become Roman”. There is difference. Becoming something that you are not not only makes you a less effective person and a poor leader. But maybe most importantly its harder to to be around you.
Here are three telltale signs that you are going native:
1. You act like you think others will want you to
2. You “check” your own personality when you go to work
3. You make decisions not based on what you think is best, but what will make the best impressions
Here are three methods to regaining “who you are”:
1. Respect the culture you are in, but act like you
2. Honor your own personality, especially if its unique
3. Make decisions based on what you think is best
Make sure that always remember:
• Who you are got the job
• How you acted was the reason you were promoted.
How do you stay true to yourself?
Anil Saxena is the President of Cube 2.14, an organizational development consulting firm that works with clients to increase both customer and employee engagement while decreasing turnover, improving customer retention, and increasing profitability within organizations.
Saxena is a certified High Impact coach and trainer and a Joint Application Design facilitator. He is also certified by both Rush Systems and IBM as a focus group facilitator. He is an inaugural member of Northwestern University’s Learning and Organizational Change program, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.