You probably hope that you will enjoy the year ahead, and be recognized for your value-added efforts. However, your anticipation about a fulfilling year may be tinged with apprehension – not about your skills, abilities, competence, motivation or interest in your work, but how you will cope with the range of personalities in the work place.

With your antenna alert, you know that your emotional survival is dependent on quickly you can pick up on your boss’s fluctuating mood, your colleague’s attempt to pounce on your territory, and your receptionist’s inclination to pass on information.

Whether we selected our vocation or serendipitous events installed us in our profession, we hadn’t been briefed on the critical impact of work colleagues. It hadn’t been a factor in our career choice. Perhaps you simply assumed that other staff in your field would share your passion, dedication, and geneality.

We may have studied arduously, undertaken extensive job training, or simply fallen into our jobs – but nothing prepared us for the Human Obstacles – the Bitches who entrap us, the volatile managers, the sullen support staff, or the dismissive team members who lurk amidst the terrific colleagues. Like human capital tinnitus, they hover in the background of our awareness.

We need to think about the implications of every act, every tweet, every attendance or conference, every entry on social media. Digital inventions have ensured that our work lives have seeped into every pore of our being. Facebook and myriad social media is no longer purely for personal friendships.

Our roles or personas (professional worker, partner, friend, parent, community worker, daughter, uncle, sports coach, etc.) no longer remain discrete categories, but bleed into each other, revealing the many parts of ourselves to anyone with technology.

The etiquette of little, inconsequential acts become mammoth. Let’s look at the question of who to ‘friend request or accept’ on social media, for example. Don’t fall for a competitive desire to have large numbers.

When updating your Facebook/Social Media think long and hard before friending or not responding to friend requests from your boss, colleagues, and people from rival organizations.

No! A hornet’s nest of complications may ensue; unless you work in a very small, collegial, trustworthy place and you are all close friends who share confidential personal information and revealing photos!

Imagine – someone at work wants to friend you, but you don’t want to hit accept for them! However, they know you accepted other workmates. Uncomfortable dynamics may affect team meetings as they seethe from perceived rejection. Or what if you invite some colleagues but they ignore your request? Nice as pie to your face, but they don’t want you as their facebook friend? Mull over that, when you know they accepted your peers with alacrity. How about the messy situation you have now: half the office knows about your rural romance, pernod driven bar tapdancing, and what you REALLY think of the marketing department, while the rest of the office assume you are Miss Priss, the workaholic? Remember, what’s posted on facebook DOESN’T stay on facebook.

You lose your role definition and work persona, and risk offending colleagues with too much information, or by refusing to accept them. You might feel upset that some colleagues have more senior staff ‘friends’ than you – what does that mean for your career development? You might be a reserved person who doesn’t like the office knowing what you do on weekends, but you may feel pressured into ‘friending’ rather than coming across as aloof. If you have amassed a large work contingent, does it mean that you feel obliged to impression manage your site?

It’s hard enough negotiating ‘who knows what’ about you at work, let alone what your ‘five hundred closest friends’ know about your personal life.

About the Author

Meredith Fuller

Meredith Fuller is the author of Working with Bitches and a vocational psychologist and career change and development specialist.

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