Published: October 15th, 2015
Millennials constantly have to deal with corporate America and its dedication to being serious all the time. We must always speak with poise, follow the processes outlined by company policy, and dress for success. In certain industries, or even just in the upper echelons of some firms, formality and professionalism are inseparable. If we hope to do business in these areas, we must learn to adapt to the uptight world of stuffy suits and corporate jargon.
Why is my company uptight?
One reason companies or workplaces might be more strict than others is because the subject matter is more serious. A small design firm might not care much for a suit and tie, but if you’re working with the CFO for JPMorgan Chase, you better believe there will be high expectations of you. Your work or the work of those around you can have serious consequences for your company and your clients. Companies can’t afford to lose millions of dollars in profits or lucrative contracts because of a little mistake or wrong impression. By regulating the culture, they create a mutual understanding of respect between the employees, shareholders, and consumers.
Secondly, the business exists to perform a function, and therefore molds every aspect of itself into aiding that purpose. BuzzFeed and ExxonMobil probably run their headquarters very differently because different work cultures promote different results. BuzzFeed makes fun and lively internet content, so working there should be fun and lively. ExxonMobil deals with gas and oil refining, a much more technical and weighty industry. By being uptight, some companies can make operations more efficient and focused by shutting out any other influences that might distract workers. In the same way that when you go to Starbucks you want to be greeted by a barista instead of Alison, 22 year-old English major with a thing for model airplanes, so do companies want an accountant or secretary or whatever position you hold before they want you.
But I’m a special creative snowflake unshackled by the tyrannies of wealth!
While we are all unique in our own special ways, a key attribute to have in business is professionalism. Professionalism is defined as “the competence or skill required of a professional.” It means you can get the job done in a way that is mindful of the people around you. Everyone in business should be professional because everyone has a job to do. Professionalism even exists in the more informal or fun companies we always hear about. There is an expectation to do your job. In certain work cultures, that mindset is expressed implicitly; it’s understood that everyone involved in a certain project is there to make it move forward. Others, like the “uptight” ones we’ve described, are much more explicit; they clearly define what is and is not acceptable.
Understanding this, you don’t have to worry about losing who you are in a formal work setting. Professionalism is a matter of work ethic and diligence, something that carries with you no matter what. Just because you work on the highest floor of the tallest building in Brickell doesn’t mean you can’t talk about your day or be yourself. Just be focused when you do so. Your employer ultimately hired you to fulfill the responsibilities of your work. That doesn’t mean you can’t be yourself while you get that job done, though.
How do I embrace my company’s uptightness?
Let your professionalism guide your formality. Sure, you may be into partying the night away, binge-watching Netflix, or taking some reckless road trip, but you’re also the kind of person who knows how to get things done in the way things should get done. By understanding that formality is set up a certain way for a reason and that you are not defined by the dull culture you deal with at work, you can be the uptight employee your company needs you to be. Because ultimately it isn’t about being uptight. It’s about being professional and getting the job done.