A cursory search on the internet will reveal copious amounts of advice about what you should or shouldn’t do in order to be successful at a job. Much of this advice is almost comically common sense, following the guidelines implicit with being a respectful and law-abiding member of society (Show up on time? Don’t abuse company finances? Don’t bully colleagues? Please don’t bother sending your resume to me if you are on the fence about any of these behaviors).
5 Old Workplace Rules to Break
- You can cry at work.
- You can (sometimes) swear at work.
- You can have an office BFF.
- You can engage in non-work-related small talk.
- You can bring your whole self to work.
However, many elder Millennials and young Gen X workers were encouraged to abide by workplace codes that are, in most cases, not relevant anymore and might even damage the long-term professional development of your colleagues.
For example, the tides have turned around the formerly apocalyptic act of crying at work (it certainly worked to Kendall Roy’s advantage in selling in Living+) as well as the once-taboo behavior of cursing in the workplace. Here are three no-nos you should say yes to, and be happier at work by doing so.
Put Your Whole Self In
According to Gartner research, 82 percent of employees think it’s important for employers to see them as a person, yet only 45 percent of employees think that their organization does indeed see them as people. That’s a significant disconnect.
Bringing your whole self to work simply means demonstrating a willingness to be vulnerable and accepting that vulnerability in others.
While many negative hot takes have been published about the whole self movement, all it means is that you behave and engage on a human level and help others to do the same. It doesn’t mean that you need to spill your guts on all aspects of your life or that you have to attend your colleague’s Adult Glee Club recital. It doesn’t mean playing a few rounds of “Never Have I Ever” as an ice breaker on client calls. Bringing your whole self to work isn’t about erasing boundaries. It simply means demonstrating a willingness to be vulnerable and accepting that vulnerability in others.
This is particularly critical for leaders: A survey by Catalyst highlighted that 85 percent of employees are willing to go the extra mile for a boss who is open and transparent. For a leader who demonstrates vulnerability, that figure jumps to a whopping 88 percent. The same survey showed employees were almost unanimous in stating that these behaviors in a leader will engender team loyalty.
Cultivating and continuing to improve upon an environment where humanity in all its emotional forms — excitement, disappointment, sadness, joy — is essential to creating a sense of belonging, a necessary foundation for team motivation and purpose.
Get a Workplace BFF
Do you have a best friend at work? Just 21 percent of workers under the age of 35 say they do, a number that decreased by three percentage points from 2019, according to Gallup data.
Conventional wisdom has been that we should not be friends with our coworkers. The phrase “I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends” gained steam with workplace-driven reality television, after all.
On-the-job satisfaction, interest in job seeking and overall well-being are tied to having a bestie at work. According to a survey from Wildgoose, 57 percent of people say having a best friend in the workplace makes work more enjoyable, 22 percent feel more productive with friends and 21 percent say friendship makes them more creative.
This suggests the 21 percent of workers under 25 with a workplace BFF are in fact doing it right. A workplace bestie can support you when you need a boost, can help you when you need motivation and can be an accountability buddy.
A word of caution, however: Keep things positive. A workplace bestie can quickly become a toxic complaint partner, which will diminish your output and efficacy at work and waste a lot of time and energy.
Embrace Small Talk
A lot of us go to work and look at the people around us transactionally. What have you done for me lately, you may think as you walk by someone from another department or from the business down the hallway. Truth is, workers who you see every day are important. Those relationships are deeply beneficial and have a trickle-down effect of improving your workplace across the board.
Treating the potential relationships around you as valuable for their own sake will pay dividends in helping you on your own career path.
By engaging in passing, non-work-related conversations and friendliness, you are setting a positive tone for the workplace and acknowledging other peoples’ sense of belonging. You’re demonstrating and improving on soft skills like empathy, respect of other peoples’ opinions and credibility. Practicing chit-chat will help you strengthen your ability to have tough conversations with clients or colleagues. It will demonstrate approachability and validate others. Treating the potential relationships around you as valuable for their own sake, rather than transactional, will pay dividends in helping you on your own career path.
There’s a saying, “Don’t get sentimental about work, work won’t get sentimental about you.” And this is true. The work itself is the transaction. But your colleagues, and those you share your workspaces with, are deeply human. The age of acting like a leaned-in automaton who does not experience the full range of emotions and life experiences is unsustainable and makes us care less about each other and in turn does not support productivity or a growth mindset.
Do not, however, use Truth or Dare as an ice-breaker.