“You know how it is on the train,” a friend commented after a Monday morning commute on DC’s metro. “Everyone is in their own self-contained bubble. But today I looked up and actually paid attention to my fellow commuters. Everyone looked miserable.”
I tried the experiment myself and decided it depended on my mood. Yes, misery loves company. Were my fellow commuters animated? Well, no, but non-caffeination could be misinterpreted for a more permanent state of dissatisfaction. Regardless of the cause, the majority of those workers will go into the office and discreetly perform what one of my colleague’s mimes – waving her hand over her non-enthusiastic face wiping away the frown to reveal a Stepford Wife smile.
We pretend. We act up until we think we can’t – the charade has taken its toll and we can’t stand it for one more second. So we mope in. “Why so serious?” our boss ask. “Oh no, I’ve got to pull it together,” begins the dialogue in our head. “But is it worth it?” we ask ourselves. “They don’t see me here. They don’t even know who I am. What would they think if they really knew me?”
When the desire to be seen, to be validated for who we are versus our work self threatens to overwhelm, ask yourself what you would gain from being seen. Yes, it may be satisfying to make it known you really aren’t interested in the business of manufacturing three hole punches, or plastic fruit, or insert your organization’s purpose here. It may be satisfying to tell people what you really think of them and how you see egos and legacy processes impede positive change. You may fantasize about how much better things would be if you were in charge. And you may be right. They may be better. But you are one of many. Many who are likely having the same thoughts that you are. A declaration of who you really are and what you really think will likely lead to resistance, not acceptance.
If you have to pretend, focus your effort on finding a better fit, not the miracle of your boss and colleagues falling to their feet in adoration if they could only see.