During my management program, I worked on a lot of ‘team projects’ and we were encouraged to circulate across the batch so as to work with as many different people as possible.
In reality, we ‘circulated’ for oh, about three projects after which we settled into our groups. By the time the second year rolled around, I already knew just who I’d want in my team, who to avoid like the plague and who to trust for those dicey two-member studies.
I had one classmate whom I really enjoyed working with. Somehow it was like we could almost read each other’s minds when it came to working, each of us knew the other could be counted upon to make the kind of decision that we ourselves would make…and we always did well on the projects that we worked together.
So much of our time way back then was spent in talking about our work, our careers and related things that we barely ever had a chance to discuss other things that most people that age would…movies, books, interests. And when we did…I didn’t notice at first, but when I did…we barely ever spoke the same language.
I guess that was the first time I realized the difference between a person’s personal and professional side. I isn’t that I dislike her. Indeed, I admire her tremendously for a lot of qualities I don’t possess and it is apparently the same from her end. But I wouldn’t be able to spend a day at leisure with her, I’d be at a loss to talk if I had to have coffee with her. I guess our professional selves complement each other perfectly but personally, we belong to two different planets.
On the other hand, my best friend who was also my classmate was my least favorite person to work with. We did try partnering, teaming…it was a disaster each time. We constantly got on each other’s nerves, then tried tiptoeing around each other’s volatile thoughts…utter chaos and both of us were glad when the projects were over.
It is the same story at work. When I say ‘the office culture’ is good, I mean that I’m working with people whose intelligence I respect, whose methods of working match mine. While professional friction is usually attributed to jealousy, I think much of it is personality conflicts. And I don’t mean the personal personality (doesn’t that sound funny now?) I mean the professional personality. I could never understand people who were indifferent to the quality of their work. I’ve been appalled by people who shirk work. I’m glad I’m not having to interact with too many such people right now.
At the same time, I wouldn’t call my colleagues my greatest friends. In fact to even call any of them friends, would be stretching it a bit. We do our occasional Friday night outings as a group but those are far and few…and we are all glad to keep it that way. Perhaps it is also a case of familiarity breeding contempt. We do after all, spend a major part of the day with one another.
The professional and personal sides are after all two manifestations of the same person. But we do tend to live out certain traits more, especially in our professional side.
Recently while traveling with collegues, we all got to know each other a little better. Or rather, saw a different aspect of each other’s lives. One of them remarked in surprise that I was very different outside work…”mild, almost meek sometimes” which made me laugh but of course that’s right. I guess ‘I’ am represented at work by all the assertiveness that brings me brownie points in my interviews and workplace. And likewise, it was odd to associate charm, flirtatiousness, shopaholism (is that a word?), gluttony and other such ‘humane’ vices with the people I see as only efficient robotic minds every day. Odd but not necessarily great…I’m glad to be back to relating to only the minds and the skill-sets rather than the entire human being packages. Mixing them up is sort of like dilution.
I guess I go back to my adage of keeping one’s personal and professional lives separate. Or at least, knowing where one ends and where the other begins.