What is Your Workplace Persona?

An image of a woman wearing a cardboard box as a mask.

Your office “persona,” the Latin word for “mask,” is important to your success with co-workers.

If you accept the premise that we are all actors, performing roles on the stage of business, regardless of the work we do or the role we serve, then we bring to our work environment an image of our self. In the psychology of C.G. Jung, “persona” is the mask or facade presented to satisfy the demands of the situation or the environment and not representing the inner personality of the individual, the public personality.

Therefore, it is critical for us to recognize the persona we display in our interactions with co-workers, including superiors, sub-ordinates and peers. In addition, it is not a coincidence that the word “persona” is also the root of the word personality. Why is that important? Well, for starters, our personality influences our behaviors and our behaviors influence our relationships. Your office persona is quite important to how you interact with your work groups, customers and industry associates and how you are perceived in the context of meeting your work responsibilities.
Your Office Persona Can Influence Your Career

While it isn’t often discussed overtly in coaching sessions, a worker’s persona is usually discussed among management when identifying candidates for increased responsibilities or promotions. These conversations highlight general attitude about the challenges of the business and one’s ability to overcome adversity or solve problems. A worker with the right persona might be characterized as “a glass is half-full worker” or “a real team player.” What you achieve in your job is very important; however,how you achieve your goals is even more important to your boss. Time-dependent work comes and goes with each business plan but your persona lives on as a sort of cornerstone of your skills. Yes, your professional personality can help get you your next promotion…and the ones to follow too.

How to Ensure Your Persona is Working for You

The good news is that your persona is always on display in every conversation, every meting and even in your emails and texts. The not-so-good news is that each of those interactions also presents an opportunity to tarnish your reputation if the mask is not a positive one.

Here are five steps to use as a self-check to ensure that your mask reflects a positive persona in your work relationships:

  1. Listen actively to a co-worker’s complete account of a troublesome situation, regardless of how dire the outcome appears to be, before passing judgment or trying to immediately resolve the situation.
  2. Encourage co-workers who are responsible for specific deliverables to continue to work towards their goals while avoiding the temptation to “step-in” prematurely.
  3. Be patient about the progress made to date on a program or problem resolution focusing on the person or team that has already achieved some of the deliverables. In most cases, the team’s continued commitment to that goal will accelerate when their boss or peer recognizes progress.
  4. Avoid penal commands or reprimands when programs or objectives are on the verge of failure. People almost always respond more favorably to constructive feedback than to threats. And if they do respond effectively to negative feedback, it is usually tempered by resentment and hurt feelings. Remember the adage “a good leader doesn’t curse the storm, they learn to dance in the rain.”
  5. Give back unselfishly to your co-workers. An important part of your persona is having an unselfish and unbiased demeanor which includes many unsolicited acts of kindness in the workplace. Among these acts are spontaneous or planned mentoring, simple greetings in the hallway, phone calls and emails of thanks and offering your assistance on a difficult task, to name a few.

A positive and progressive frame of mind is almost always present in a worker with a healthy persona. Be predictable in your displays of persona and avoid masks associated with office gossip, derisive comments and second guessing decision-makers. Lastly having good humor in the workplace is a positive characteristic of persona; however, don’t elicit humor at a co-worker’s expense, never joke about a socially unacceptable topic or a negative business performance issue, and be sure to use humor to enhance team building not to create a polarity of thinking in the group. Remember good-natured professionals are much more likely to get promoted than the office clown.

In closing, I learned my first lesson about office persona outside of work at a masked Halloween party some 30 years ago. My wife and I decided to dress like a very old and frail couple complete with full pullover masks that were very unflattering to say the least. The masks covered our real identities. We soon discovered that none of the other guests spoke to us, opting instead to chat-it-up with Kermit the Frog and the full-costumed bunny rabbit. About halfway through the event, due mostly to the unpleasant feel of the masks, we decided to de-mask ourselves (i.e., change our persona). Well as soon as that happened, we were welcomed into the conversations with our co-partyers. So I ask each of you…“which mask do you wear among your co-workers and does your persona positively or negatively influence your work relationships?”