I’m having an identity crisis. All my life I’ve been a Taurus. And because I am a Taurus, I’ve been told that I am determined and stubborn – some have even used the word bull-headed. But now, some scientists are suggesting that there is a thirteenth zodiac sign, and that the alignment of the stars is not quite what we’ve thought. Suddenly, instead of the bull, my mascot is the battering ram.
Research on my new sign, Aries, tells me that I should be headstrong and courageous, possibly even fearless. It feels like I’m forcing Cinderella’s show to fit.
The same kind of identity crisis can happen in the workplace. Whether self-imposed, earned, or bestowed upon us, we find ourselves being labeled in the workplace.
Julie is the creative one.
Jack is the sales guy.
Peter is the technical guru.
Sally is on the management fast track.
Labels like these can distinguish you from the pack, and may even open up opportunities for you. They are your workplace identity and can serve you well, but they can also be an inhibitor for you when organizations or circumstances change.
Being the expert is often a very good thing. Julie is in a fantastic position as the creative one when her organization is marketing a new product. It’s her time to shine. But what happens when Julie’s company decides to focus on current products, and no longer needs her creative expertise?
Jack had a great year last year selling that new product, but what happens when the market shifts and he doesn’t meet his sales targets this year?
Peter gets rewarded as the technical guy who designed the new product, but what happens when that product doesn’t sell well? Peter may find himself developing action plans and strategies for improvement rather than the next big thing.
Sally moves along quickly and easily in her career, but what happens when she decides to take a leave of absence for a couple of years? She may have difficulty maintaining her workplace identity when she returns.
The workplace identities that these employees have worked so hard to achieve are suddenly questioned. While little research is available on this topic, what is there suggests that when organizations change, employee workplace identities are affected. Even if these employees have many other skills, they may not be easily accepted in a new role. If we’re not careful we can become a fish out of water.
What’s your take on labels in the workplace, and have they served you well?
Don't forget to set your DVRs to record Jeopardy next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to watch IBM's Watson play Jeopardy against the champs!