Back when I worked in banking, as the Assistant Manager of a branch, I wore a mask. No, not literally, you silly goose. After all, banks and masks don’t go well together if you know what I mean…But I hid all the same.
I was hiding behind an image of who I thought I should be, who I thought others wanted me to be. I didn’t show the “real me” because I was scared. Something inside me said I didn’t belong there. If people knew who I was, deep down, they wouldn’t respect me, they wouldn’t trust me, they wouldn’t listen to me.
I was just a kid!! I had no idea what I was doing!! I cried at night when I was alone. I felt overwhelmed and lost and out-of-control. I never balanced my checkbook, I forgot birthdays, I obsessed about boys. Who was I to “manage” anything??
I wasn’t even certain of who the “real me” was…
So I faked it. I pretended to be someone else–someone who had her life together. Someone who didn’t make work personal. Someone who barked orders and never backed down and refused to get close to anyone.
And you know what happened? I became a person I hated.
I thought this was just what people did at work. They acted. They didn’t show themselves because that would be weak. They didn’t make real connections with people because they would never take you seriously again. They never, ever showed their human side.
I was naïve, back then, in so many ways.
And when I finally left the bank (probably a year later than I should have…) I vowed never to make the same mistakes.
In my next job, as an executive assistant, I wanted to be the REAL, no-holds-barred CHRISSY. I wanted to be friends with everyone. I wanted to make everyone love me.
Turns out, that too is the wrong way to go.
So, once again, I changed my strategy.
I’ve never claimed to be perfect—not by a long shot—but I’ve learned a thing or two over the years.
I know there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about creating relationships in the workplace. I know there’s a middle ground in there, where you can be authentic and true to yourself without going too far. And where you can be respected and trusted and listened to even if you’re not perfect. You don’t have to pretend. You don’t have to hide.
You can create real, lasting authentic relationships in the workplace. I’m not talking about “friendships.” There’s a difference. Most people don’t really understand how to do this. And, like me, they end up with an inappropriate amount of distance—they’re too close to or too detached from their colleagues.
If this sounds all too familiar to you, I’d like to invite you to join my Building Powerful Professional Relationships training program. During these training sessions, I teach you the communication strategies and techniques you need to know in order to build and leverage the right kind of professional relationships—the kind that make you feel good about yourself and what you’re doing. The kind that allow others to respect you and, at the same time, enjoy being around you.