Imagine at your workplace: a co-worker tells your boss you are a “lousy worker”. What will you do? If you take it personally, you will feel offended and totally disrespected. Your immediate reaction: defend yourself or submit passively. Either you take this criticism as a literal, serious judgment or you want to correct your peer and prove him wrong. You still maintain that innocence but deep inside, you would try hard to correct the perception and defend what you know is true. This may heighten the conflict but would you really not take that statement personally?
This phrase, “Don’t take it personally” is most often heard in real-life work situations. It is usually heard over in difficult conversations, giving feedback, conflicts, collaborations, losing clients, restructuring or dealing with career highs and downs. But still, I we don’t know what it really means.
If you are working 8-10 hours a day, surely most of your waking hours (and life) is spent at work so it makes sense to take it personally, right? We are spending our prime years in our careers so is this something not personal? Yes, it seems that we can protect ourselves best by not taking things personally. Having no arguments or intimidating situations, there are more advantages to it when we pursue our work, leadership and fellowships on a personal level. How do we do this?
Talk about happiness and success in the work environment. Nurturing relationships. Take a look around you – the most motivated, passionate and successful employees must be the ones who take their work personally. Of course, they inspire us and we follow them. At the other side are the people who probably didn’t seem to care about their work whom you do not enjoy dealing with. We avoid these people. They’ve depersonalized their work. From this experience, it proves that success and work satisfaction are likely if you take your work personally.
When we want to fulfill our responsibilities as leaders, taking into account the people backing us up, it pays to take things more personally. Talk about dehumanized teams at work – who treat their individual jobs as purely business. Going through their daily tasks but fully not engaged. What happens? This is another thing – ethics at workplace from corporate scandals, accounting fraud, cheating on productivity to issues of work environment’s safety and protection. If top management only sees the business as only that – not taking it on a personal level means they cease to be the defenders of their workforce – from the clerks up to the managers. They no longer do their roles to keep the well-being of their employees, customers and communities in place. Does anyone like this?
Clearly, this is not just about social psychology or catchy terminologies. Bottomline, if you think about a company’s performance – there is a positive correlation between engaged employees and success. People who are engaged are taking their work personally –maybe the stakes are high but the costs are worthy in the end. Employees feel they are part-owners of the company so they strive more. A definite win-win situation for the company, the employees and the stakeholders at large.
But let us also check ourselves. Seek to clarify first what it means if you are stepping out of your own limits. There’s a difference in taking it personally and not being able to manage your own boundaries. Are you so much passionate to your job that you are not able to protect yourself from failures or mistakes? Does it affect your self-esteem? Being attached too much to your work personally that it affects your overall being is also not right so try to strike a balance between your own personal life and career.
Going back to the co-worker at the start of this article – what could have you done to him? Get clarification first before you respond. Take time out and ask yourself what this situation means to you. Check your co-worker’s reasons on why he said that about you. Decide on the action you’ll make once all questions have been answered. But do you say, “It’s not personal?” If you do take your work to the heart, you’d be shattered along the way. You will be down and out and frustrated with the thought that “Is this work worth it?” We consider putting too much weight on what work is to our life. But we also have to think rationally always. In the midst of all your work’s victories and challenges – the key to your sanity and eventually success is to take it personally.