Why Being "On" At Work Is Key To Reaching Your Full Potential

My wife is a nurse at St. Joseph’s. She does shift work three days a week. Because of her hours, I’m home with my girls (21 months, 4 years, and 6 years) three nights a week without her.

What I’ve recently discovered is I have a hard time locating my “patience” switch. For many of us, we go to work and we have a switch we flip. Sometimes it’s patience other times its, assertiveness, detail orientation, persuasion, or something else regardless of what it is, a lot of us have a switch we flip.

Recently, I decided at 5 pm every evening I need to switch from the assertive, get it done now mentality to the patience mentality. But this is hard!

When Flipping The Switch Is Hard

When any of us have to flip the switch it is hard. For some, it’s a lot harder than others. Unfortunately, I think I’m in the “a lot harder” category.

Why is this? In the world of DISC, there are four behavior styles (details in this article). With the way our behavior patterns show up we have certain behaviors that are opposites. For instance, if you are primarily a patient person and find supporting others, collaborating, and taking your time to make decisions natural for you, then you are likely an S-Style.

Well, if while you’re at work you have to switch to assertive and decisive mode (also understood as impatient), this is your opposite behavior pattern or D-Style. Flipping the switch to this pattern of behavior is hard for you.

Another difficult adjustment would be changing from a sociable, talkative, and interactive style (I-Style) to a detail-oriented, structured, and precise approach (C-Style).

These are opposite behaviors and make the changes a challenge. If you think about your work context, I would guess there are many people that make these adjustments. In fact, you might be one of them.

When Flipping The Switch Is Necessary

At some point or another, adaptation is necessary for all employees. For example, I used to work in HR and would have to track applicants for certain positions. Sometimes we’d have more than 60 applicants and I’d have to track where each one is in the process, make sure to follow-up with them, and keep detailed records on our interactions with them.

If employees don’t approach work this way, they will never reach beyond their current talents and abilities. Putting employees into situations where they have to adapt is a key piece of their development and your business’ growth and success.

For me, details are not my normal. I had to flip the switch and become detail-oriented and structured. This worked well for me. It worked because I developed a system but more importantly, I didn’t have to “live” with the switch on.

When Flipping The Switch Can Be A Problem

If you or an employee is consistently working with the switch in “on” mode, this can create a problem. Generally speaking, if you are turning on patience like I need to with my kids, my opposite (and more natural) behavior will need to be held back.

If we hold back our natural tendencies and strengths for too long, it becomes extremely frustrating and stressful.

What this looks like in a workplace is a square peg in a round hole. It’s expecting the assertive, problem-solving person on your team to never speak up or be given challenging tasks/projects to complete and then wondering why they are frustrated at work.

What’s key about flipping the switch is realizing it’s a necessary piece of most people’s jobs but at some point, the power source is going to run dry. Hopefully, this isn’t happening in your workplace, but if it is, it is your responsibility as a manager or owner to help them refuel.

This may look like adjusting responsibilities or giving them some time off or reworking their job description. But if something isn’t done, the employee(s) will burn out and potentially walk out.

Why You Can Flip A Switch And Still Be Yourself

I’ve also noticed there is resistance to flipping the switch. For some people, they know they should adjust their behavior but they won’t. Usually, I hear people say that it feels fake or they say they can’t be that patient or detail-oriented or some other explanation.

What is missed in these scenarios is the simple fact that most of the time people only need to change their behaviors in short bursts. It’s like a quick trip to “patience island” and then you return home.

Simply put, all of this is adapting to the work context and environment. And it is an amazingly effective way to work. But until people can view adaptation or “flipping the switch” as still being oneself and a part of their development, your employees and team (and organization for that matter) will never reach their full potential.

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