Wednesday, March 7, 2012

stick-out, eccentricity, US vs Asia, high-flyer vs low-flyer

On 29 February 2012 02:54, LS wrote
Being direct, aggressive, loud is not what I meant by "sticking out".  It is a work style.  It will help you push back, get attention, and not become an easy target.  Of course there are drawbacks, so it is just one of the work styles.  Not sticking out doesn't mean you have to keep low profile. 

What I mean is something completely unrelated to work.  A habit few or no one has, and make people feel it.  I will make up a couple of examples --- you don't have them, I am just describing some examples.
1. If a person has to wash hand every 5 minutes during meal and therefore needs to pass other people when having a group lunch;
2. He eats very slow so people have to wait at group lunch.

I don't think there is any problem with sticking out unless you feel such kind of behavior hurts your career.  You may want to talk to the high-flyers around you to get some feedback.  Good luck.

Hi LS,

Hope your family is doing well in Beijing's winter.

I was thinking about the concept of keeping a "consistent" and harmonious appearance in the office, so that I don't look different from others. I now feel I don't want to change myself too much.

I feel many colleagues do show a bit of "personality" in paralinguistic (body language, silences, voice, hesitation...), email wording etc. I feel US big company culture is more relaxed and a bit more "individualistic" than Singapore.

There's an important backdrop though -- Each colleague's rank in the office serves as the backdrop of the interaction. Many leaders do show a bit of unconventional personality. So do many high-flyers. Low flyers probably should not compare themselves with those.  I now remember in GS I was low-flyer and semiconsciously kept my head down. My team lead was abrasive, outspoken, loud (and aggressive) but he's a high flyer. Such a personality is very much liked by some, hated by others.

I now feel a fundamental factor why I developed my personal style is that I had been a relative high flyer in small companies for most of my formative years.

A basic (and rather relevant) principle is "if you aren't good at standing out, then don't stick out". I have realized that after my initial rise as a 2nd-grade "computer wizard", I am no longer good at standing out. In fact, my personal style is not welcome in a typical Chinese context, though more accepted in American context. In short, I'm not good at standing out. So it's very important that I don't stick out.

All my role models (like GS team lead, my sister) are in leadership roles, not necessarily management role. For them, being invisible isn't a good thing. But I also recognize many good leaders keep a low profile.

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