Self-presentation in Professional Settings

What does it mean to act professionally?

I’ve often been very critical of how I act and speak, even though what I have to say is rather benign I still fear coming off as callous, out of touch, or just plain weird. I am often my harshest critique, which is bittersweet. I would consider myself outgoing and social, but some environments give me more social anxiety than others. I’ve realized over the last few weeks that when I’m in the office my self-scrutiny is heightened, paired with the realization that when I’m stressed I sometimes become more anti-social. Sometimes the anxiety reaches the point where I feel awkward and uncomfortable, despite that not being my natural social state and can create a feedback loop where I’m more likely to perceive something I say or do as stupid, further increasing my anxiety.

I believe this reaction comes from the perception that professional work environments are sterile, utilitarian, and devoid of room for personality or jokes. My friend told me that on the contrary it is advantageous to embrace your own personality in a business setting- doing so can build meaningful connections, make a lasting impression on supervisors and coworkers, and increase the chance of your ideas being adapted. As an intern at HJF, I only have 10 weeks to make a lasting impression if I want to be hired full time. Having strong interpersonal relationships at work has been shown to make you work better and happier. Gallup found that participants that say they have a best friend at work are more likely to be engaged, report higher well-being, and better performance. Having strong interpersonal relationships can also increase your idiosyncrasy credit, increasing the chance that your opinions will be trusted and adopted by the group. In addition, if you’re comfortable in your environment you’re more likely to exude confidence. Our theories and models class emphasized the importance of peripheral cues. Often it matters more how something is said than what is said. In an environment where persuading others of your ideas is critical, focusing on building strong interpersonal relationships is paramount to success.