Behaviour at work
“Oh the people you will meet” Dr Seuss
Professional and personal - differences
Probably the hardest thing about starting work for the first time is the relationship task.
It’s a very rare person who can just “be themselves” at work.
You need to be professional at work, and for most of us that basically means you can’t be yourself.
If everyone behaved “naturally” at work then there would be a whole lot of unhappy workplaces. Why? Because everybody (including the boss) has good and bad days.

Let’s say the boss is having a bad day, things are not going well, and he has issues at home. So his natural tendency is to be grumpy and rude to everyone in the office. Of course not everyone knows the boss’s problems – so he gets a reputation of being rude and not appreciating his workers. Employees become unhappy, start squabbling with each other, work suffers and things go from bad to worse.

Let’s say you (and everyone else) only did your best work when you were happy, and told everyone what you really think when things were not going your way. My guess is that pretty soon everyone would be at each other’s throats.

So when you are at work you have to be respectful and considerate of others, watch your behaviour, language, appearance, body posture, and hold back on a lot of emotional stuff that you may be feeling. It’s called being professional.

“Being professional essentially means that in situations where you’re ready to explode, curse, and weep. You are able to remain calm and reserved (and get the job done.)” (Alain de Botton- School of Life).

But what sort of people will you have to deal with at work? Work experts AMACON suggest that of 100 people you meet at work;

• 50 will be polite and pleasant to work with • 20 will be neutral and forgettable
• 15 will be amazing and brighten your day
• 10 will be irritated and a bit rude

• 4 will be angry and unpleasant
• 1 will be crazy and just a bit scary

A problem that new starters often have is separating personal and professional relationships.

You’ve spent the last 10 years at school, and the only professional relationship you have had is with the teaching staff, and it’s been their job to educate you. All your other relationships have been personal. If you don’t like someone at school, so what? There are plenty of other people in the school.

Now you are moving to a work environment where you’re there to do a job of work, and you will probably be working (relying) on people. Some of these people will never make it in your best friends list. You will have a boss. You may like or dislike your boss. That doesn’t matter; you’re there to get the job done.

Relationships at work are important. But remember you are not there to be friends with people you meet. It’s professional. It’s a bonus if you are friends, but don’t expect it. And as a new starter, don’t make friends too easily. You should take your time to find out about your co-workers, as there will inevitably be those who want to be friends for all the wrong reasons.


So forget about establishing a personal relationship. What you need to do is establish a professional relationship. A special word about family businesses. These can be difficult from a work perspective, as someone always has to “take the trash out”, someone has to give orders and someone has to take them. So if you work in a family business and the boss (who happens to be your sister) tells you to do a job you don’t like, you have to respect their position and get it done. They don’t even have to ask you nicely, it’s the job, so suck it up and do it.

Likewise if you are a new starter in a family business, and not a member of the family, it’s probably best to assume that every family member is your boss. If you get conflicting instructions for other members of the family, don’t argue, just check with the family member who hired you.