In the working world, there are certain industries that stand out for being highly competitive and cut throat. Examples include the Banking and Finance sector, Start Up’s and IT where anyone can easily be replaced, kicked out and competition is fierce. It becomes every man to himself when climbing the corporate ladder of success. In such a context, many workers become task-oriented and focus only on themselves. A classic dog eat dog world. How can they get the next promotion? What must they do to earn a bigger commission or bonus? Or at least avoid getting replaced or losing their job to the next Ivy League graduate?
Me, Myself and I
With this shift in the way organizations work, employee behaviors change to adapt, and this individualistic turn impacts relationships greatly. In competitive, stressful jobs (which are increasingly common), we see more superficial relationships and a lack of trust and ruthlessness between co-workers. Some individuals become accustomed to constantly being on their toes, or overly cautious. But when they carry that outside of their professional role, there can be consequences for their lives and relationships.
Have you ever come across co workers behaving in such a competitive way that they tend to keep things to themselves, are task orientated and showing little empathy? Or acting overly cautious, trusting no one and keeping relationships strictly on a ‘work only’ basis? Unfortunately, because of how many organizations are set up, these behaviors are now more common in many.
What happens after office hours?
There are many consequences for interpersonal relationships because of how we train ourselves to behave at work. Many people spend between 8-12 hours/day at work, so the behaviors we shape there can carry with us into other parts of life. When we allow this to happen, it can affect the people around us – those in our life outside of work.
We may soon find ourselves becoming detached from our feelings, being reluctant to open up to friends and loved ones because we have become accustomed to not letting our guard down and not trusting people so easily for fear of being used or backstabbed.
Our friendships may become very transactional due to the ‘work only’ relationships that we are used to forming at the work. As a result, we start losing the concept of going beyond, or giving with no strings attached when it comes to treating our loved ones.
Due to our cautious behavior, we may find that there is less or lack of communication since we do not wish to divulge personal information for fear of someone using it against us. Eventually, we may find that our relationships outside of work are fragmented or distant because there is no longer depth in those relationships.
How to change Me into a Us?
The ideal situation is to make sure work is separated from personal life. They are supposed to be different. Letting work consume elements of one’s personal life is usually not beneficial for anyone.
Recognising that friends and family outside of work are a source of refuge where we can feel safe to trust and turn to is important. Outside of work, we should be able to de stress and let our guard down, and family/friends are the people that we can trust will not harm us.
We have to intentionally make an effort to be present when spending time with our loved ones, and not being preoccupied with work thoughts. This will allow us to be ourselves and decrease that competitive edge. Realising that empathy and sincerity is not a sign of weakness is also important in overcoming that mindset of being guarded.
Overall social support is related to increasing happiness and lower stress, overall better mental and physical well-being. If we are already in such a high stress and competitive work environment, friends and loved ones are exactly the people you need to turn to for relief. So communication is crucial in allowing friends to understand what we are going through.
Make love, not war
There might be some need to be overly cautious at work, yes. People might be gunning for us, back-stabbing, gossiping or hoping to get ahead of us. Unfortunately, these things do happen, and increasingly more.
But simply because such behaviors exist doesn’t mean we need to put up a wall all the time. In fact, if we find ourselves being so guarded at work, we should be more transparent and open to our friends and family outside of work. They don’t need a promotion over us. It’s a safe space, so we should allow ourselves to be part of that.
When we let negative work attitudes influence how we live our day-to-day life, nothing good comes out of it. But if we separate them and understand the need for strong relationships to counter-balance some of the work stress, our well being will improve.
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