When I was a young paralegal working for a large law firm in downtown Los Angeles, I was a quiet, insecure, rule-following employee who ate lunch by myself every day. I definitely had a different personality at work than at home, and it was very stressful for me to essentially change into someone else from 9-5. I came to appreciate the 60 minute commute each way from my apartment in Sherman Oaks, because it gave me ample time to either gear up or to unwind. And guess what? I only lasted six months at that job.
There are many reasons why our work personalities are different from our home personalities. One explanation might be that we have to adapt ourselves to a certain situation. Take my friend Arthur, who is an orthopedic surgeon. All day long, he makes life-altering decisions on behalf of his patients. But when he gets home, according to his wife, Susie, he won’t even choose a restaurant, or a movie, or say what he wants on his pizza.
My former accountant is another guy whose work identity was completely different from his home personality. I only recently learned that he is a functioning alcoholic. When I knew him, which was during the work day, he was a stoic numbers-cruncher; shy and conservative. I found out years later that for pretty much his entire adult life, he has consumed a 12-pack of Budweiser every single night, and the alcohol presumably flips his switch. I’m told he becomes a jovial, karaoke-singing extrovert.
Now think about a waitress who is cheery and friendly to her customers during work hours so that her tips are greater, but in reality she hates her job? And consider a police officer, fire fighter, or EMT making life or death decisions on a daily basis, What are they like at home? Do they have a softer side? Or are they incapable of being anything other than decisive and perhaps controlling?
Now, what if you work from home? Can you be an immovable insurance adjuster denying claims left and right while in your pajamas? Or a Human Resources Director interviewing job prospects via Skype with your (out of camera range) cat sitting on your lap?
I can go on and on with various scenarios of people who adopt a different character from 9-5.
And so I wonder . . . Are these changes in our personalities intentional? Situational? Beneficial? Dishonest? Are people who put on a work personality that is completely opposite of who they are at home more successful? Less successful? Happier? More stressed out?
I’m so confused!
Please share your insight and help me figure out who wins this tug-of-war. And why.