4 Ways To Be More Personal At Work – Without Being Unprofessional.

As much as I love working in business, many of the norms associated with business life are painfully annoying. Suits. Powerpoint presentations. Signing emails with best. Shoes.

I don’t play into it. I’m an informal person; the same person wherever I go. I treat people I barely know as mate, speaking openly with friends and clients alike. Personal stories to start a conference call? Always. Hugs at work? You betcha. They go down a treat.

When all is said and done, we’re working with people. People who are also hungover after heading out for a couple quiet ones the night before. People who share similar passions like Emma Watson and a good caesar salad. We’re not machines. At least not yet.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have given us unprecedented access into our colleagues personal lives. We’re only a few clicks away from seeing what a someone likes or how they spend their time. Take a cheeky look at what you’re colleagues have been up to and use that to cut through the monotony of business.

Done properly, an informal approach to business relationships is great for building stronger partnerships with colleagues and clients, fostering a more enjoyable team culture, and helping to achieve more where formality won’t. Done poorly, informal behavior in the workplace is a fast track to adding looking for my next challenge as your LinkedIn headline.

There’s a fine line between informal interactions in the workplace and getting that call from HR. Here are my hot tips, proudly brought to you by my own trial (and frequent) error:

  1. Personal stories are great, within reason.

    Starting your meeting with a story about that one time you {outcome} with {accomplice} in {country} for wearing {outfit} is fine. Most people will have had a similar experience. A good story will make you relatable. Be sure it’sactually funny, legal, and respectful.

  2. Hugs are great, but broach the idea first. 

    The goal is to build relationships, not earn a restraining order. Most people like hugs, but not everyone. A personalized handshake is an excellent alternative. Here’s a video to get you started (please, please watch this video).

  3. Be the VP of Staff Morale.

    Be the person who greets new staff and new clients into your business. Welcome emails don’t count. In fact, don’t send a welcome email. Do drinks. Do Tipsy Bowling. Play Settlers of Catan. Shape the culture you’ll enjoy. Make people feel comfortable to express themselves in the workplace.

  4. Swearing is okay. Used sparingly, and never first.

    Despite what seems common sense, there is a place for cussing in the work place. A recent study highlights that people who swear are more trustworthy and reliable. We all know how good it feels to drop the F-bomb from time to time. Never be the first to swear. Let whoever goes first test the water. If they go down in flames, adjust from there.

There are more glaringly obvious things to avoid that I’m sure most of you can surmise on your own. Stick to the basics, and challenge situations that are too formal by offering spurts of personal inspiration. People that enjoy their time together naturally work better together. Cut the shit, cut the formality, and start interacting with people like you know you can.

Best,
Tom

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