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Be serious or friendly at the workplace?


mical
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Hi all,

just want to ask for general tip for the workplace - is it better to be serious and formal OR warm and friendly, assuming you are competent?

Just asking because a friend said not to smile and show you are super motivated but be very serious, that this is more North American style.

I’m working in Europe where it tends to be more formal and serious (like Germany and Switzerland).

I think it’s good if people are hardworking yet warm and friendly, but sense here people will assume you are  naive, insincere, stupid, gullible, and not professional...

Any thoughts?

 

 

 

 

Edited by mical
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It's not an either/or, black or white kind of a thing.

There is a time to be serious and professional and times to be warm or friendly. You really need to read the room so to speak. When starting a new job, rather than walking in with preconceived ideas on how you want to act or be, try to be more neutral and look around at your new colleagues and atmosphere in general and adjust accordingly.

 

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Normally I would say that you should be "adaptable". But since you work in Germany, serious is the way to go there. Most people there are cold hard workers. They are interested in getting the job done and that is about it. Brother works there, he is like that and adjusted nicely to their kind of thinking. 

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Well you don't want to be seen as the office b1tch that's for sure, so you need to find the happy medium of both sides.  Personally I dont like the cold, hard stuffy formal type of people who never smile and cant imagine anyone would prefer that, but if Germany is like that then you need to be able to display that to some degree.  There's got to be room for a nice smile and a cheerful hello.

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There's a big difference between being warm versus prying or acting like a clown. Lot's of degrees between those states. 

I've worked in tech for many years as a consultant in various corporate cultures. I'm a warm person, and that comes through regardless of how cold any given coworkers might be. If this has ever caused anyone to question my competence, then my competence has won over time, and I've been happier for it.

I like the idea of reading the room and conforming to the right degree. However, I've never lost my confidence enough to have lost my smile when I speak or my humor when inspired by a circumstance--and never at anyone's expense.

I've come to learn over time that I have the ability to set the climate of my team and my environment. That comes with confidence, which is a learned skill. It's not something to decide ahead of time. That would be an imposition rather than a natural outgrowth of work relationships that become trusting over a course of t.i.m.e.

EnjOy your new position, and congrAts! I hope you'll post more to this thread about your experience.

 

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Wow such amazing advice!! 

Really like the idea of being neutral and adjusting, and a bit of warmth and smile here and there never hurts, let competence speak for itself..

Each culture (working & country) is a bit different, so adjusting makes others feel a bit more comfortable I imagine..

When I went to Switzerland 🇨🇭 for my previous job I was asked by a coworker on the first day, “So how do you usually greet back home? Hug, kiss on the cheek, 3 kisses? We are Swiss, we can do everything!”🤣

(this is embarrassing but many years ago I thought a greeting by a kiss on the cheek was literally a kiss on the cheek!! 🤦‍♂️)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by mical
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Hey Mical!

 

Welcome!

 

Great advice already given. My ten penny would be corny but, just be yourself. If you are looking to stay there for a year, 3, 10, who knows, being something you are not is going to end up becoming too hard to maintain anyway. In my opinion, people can always tense when others put up barriers or a front and if your job involved any team effort then, you want others to feel relaxed enough to work with you and not so tense that they make panicked mistakes. 
 

My only professional stint where you could say the atmosphere would be perceived as formal was working in a keg office. I was admin, typing up litigations for court, front of house desk and a personal assistant to one of the directors. Just reception and admin stuff. I used to commute to Edinburgh, they used to put me up in a hotel, but I worked in the UK in England 95% of the time. Office at the front of it was formal, once you were working there relaxed, friendly, even jokey. Big personalities and characters. Some were more quiet but as catfeeder said, competence talks. 
 

If you are a kind, friendly, personable hard worker who is keen and competent this in my opinion is a much better mix than trying to remain distant or unsmiling because you think this may read as weakness or foolishness or something like that. The top guy at our office happened to be the most open and informal, in both personality and appearance. I guess he had nothing to prove?

 

All the best and congrats on your promotion! 
 

 

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On 11/24/2021 at 10:51 AM, Wiseman2 said:

When in Rome...

Take your cues from  your workplace culture.

This all the way, every day.  Here's an illustrative anecdote. Today we went through security at the airport.  Husband, me, 12 year old son.  Big sign said "do not joke, security is a serious matter" - obviously they've encountered people who joke about having weapons or other contraband in their bags, joke about their identity, whatever.  People are nervous/distracted/tired/maybe on vacation and buzzed, etc. So a reminder is needed. 

You may get similar reminders in the workplace but often not.  Pay keen attention to whatever the culture is about joking about any topics involving race/gender/sex - I mean you know not to go to extremes but all workplaces have different levels of tolerance for being friendly or forward about how a person looks that day, etc. 

So for example in my office now I might compliment someone on an accessory - love your scarf/nice tie - but I wouldn't compliment on a new hair style unless I know the person well and even then.  But in other workplaces it's totally fine to compliment on weight loss, or the pregnancy waddle, or on a flattering outfit.  

So I love joking around (no, not about race/sex/gender) but I'm very careful and default to "no jokes" in the workplace I'm in now.

I met my husband at work and back then in the mid 90s it was much more relaxed in certain ways.  At least IMO.  But yes, Wiseman right on target.

Edited by Batya33
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