When does being a professional mean losing a little bit of you?

 

I have always been a well-mannered person. I was raised to believe honesty and respect make a person. Being a professional definitely requires these two characteristics, but when do professional personality traits start sapping some of the essence that makes you, you?

Since the beginning of our studies, lecturers have told us that we are now entering the professional world and we need to act like it. And of course, we all agreed; we all knew we had to be well-mannered and carry ourselves in an appropriate manner in the work place, but then we were told to carry this sense of professionalism home with us, we did not realise it would affect our personal lives.

During university, many students perceive this as their time of self-growth. To make a load of mistakes and learn from them, to have fun, to be irresponsible, to fall in love, to have new experiences, and to find themselves. Sure, some students are full on academics, but even they need some way to have fun and relax. Now, what we were told is, basically, do not have fun, because you may be seen. What does this even mean? Don’t go out and have a good time for fear of a client seeing you? Never have a good time because your personal life might be deemed unfit in the workplace? See, that’s just the thing, it’s YOUR PERSONAL LIFE. You’re not getting drunk at work; you’re having fun in an area designated “fun” area.

Another thing is having to cover up your methods of self-expression. Tattoos and piercings. I have had multiple experiences where I have been told to cover my tattoos because the patients might be offended. Yes, a member of the 26 gang will be offended by little moon tattoo. No patient has ever complained or even mentioned my tattoos. The only reason tattoos are taboo in the workplace is because work is uniform; if you’re one of the little sheep that wander away from the herd then you’re not considered socially acceptable. Bruce (2016) mentioned that tattoos are now becoming the social norm, as more and more people look to ink as their method of self-expression. It was also mentioned that employers need to be clear about their policies on tattoos and piercings; unless it is proven that the potential employee’s tattoo is for religious purposes. But is this not bias? Is it only okay to have a visible tattoo if it is religious? The world is so hell bent of conformity that anything “different” is seen as a threat.

Zuei (2010) said “conformity often occurs in situations where there is high uncertainty”. I interpret this as a need for control. Humans tend to become anxious when they feel they are not in control of a situation. Is this why there are so many rules as to how we have to behave and look? Is conformity just a control issue? I feel I need to defend this statement a little bit, control can be good. Structure is good, but even structure needs to have pliable walls. If we leave no room for change, then what we are now is all we will ever know.

I think having to carry this sense of professionalism on your shoulders 24/7 can be tiring. I personally believe people need release, whether it is a walk on the beach or a night out with friends. You don’t need to walk around like you’re responsible for the entire world all the time. Just be respectful, friendly, and well-mannered. You don’t need to lose yourself to work. And I think older generations need to start coming to terms with change, and embracing it.

References

Bruce, V. (2016). Tattoos in the workplace-taboo or form of self-expression? HC online. Retrieved from: http://www.hcamag.com/hr-news/tattoos-in-the-workplace–taboo-or-a-form-of-selfexpression-210810.aspx

Zuei (2010). Why we conform: the power of groups. The Why Ville Times. Retrieved from: http://j.whyville.net/smmk/whytimes/article?id=11211

 

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