Different Strokes

Know a meek executive who is the authority figure at home? Or the loving mother and doting wife who whips everyone into shape at work? Do people really have different sides for work and leisure? Alumni share their secrets.

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Megha Mittal (MBA 2010):

I am quite different at work and at leisure. I like to plan our team’s work in advance and be the decision-maker; whereas during holidays, I mostly leave the decisions to my friends and go with the wind. Also, work requires me to be more in control and be a strong decision-maker, whereas I like to make my friends happy when I’m with them, so I would usually do what they like. What matters to other people is whether they benefit from your attitude at any given time. If they benefit from you being the strong personality at work, they will like it. Similarly, if you take care of your friends when with them, they like it too.

I have met people who lead and plan very well in work situations, but like to be led at fun. I think this is very powerful as it coneys a message that these people can manage themselves well and adjust their attitudes to the needs of the situation and people around them.

Ng Pheck Choo (BBA 1984):

I always make sure I clear all my deadlines at work – working more than 12 hours a day is quite common – and tend to get impatient with people who procrastinate. But when it comes to leisure, I’m totally the opposite. After a hard day’s work, I would literally be quite laid back and relaxed – it’s a good way to de-stress; why be so hard on yourself? I usually hang out with my friends, not colleagues; and my friends are also very much like me – we all work very long hours, so leisure is for de-stressing.

I tend to take charge and be the one making decisions at work; but when it comes to leisure, I prefer to let others take the lead and make the decision for me.

 

ADAPT TO THE GAME

Adi Hartono (MBA 2010):

I am personally aggressive both at work and at play, especially in games. Playing games, I usually manage to win. At work, I do my best. However, the occasional lack of motivation may get the better of me. It all depends on the spirit and motivation – when I feel energetic, I can be very enthusiastic and hardworking; but when I’m all done with my assignments, I enter a slow mode which may impact performance temporarily. Generally, motivation and compliments encourage me to deliver my best.

At work, I tend to keep a “space” between people who don’t really have a direct connection with me. The people who don’t really know me would think that I am cold on first impression, but they see that I am actually friendly beyond that. My close friends will say that I’m talkative and friendly.

Of course, at work I need to present myself so that people will see my intelligence, seriousness, and hard work. At play and leisure, even though I usually use tactics to win at games, the fun aspect is much more prominent. If I think that the person already knows my competencies and qualities, I will then show my fun side to make people feel comfortable working with me.

Deepika Singh (MBA 2008):

I am not completely different at work and at play, but I have adapted myself to flex my style to meet business demands. I do not like numbers in my personal life and happily leave all accounting to my better half. However, at work, when needed, I diligently look at number and am adept at compiling 100-page comparative analyses. I have not encountered extreme reactions, but some folks have at times expressed surprise when I share with them how I don’t enjoy planning or how I am not a numbers person.

Another example, I would not want to go on a planned tour of a city in my leisure; however when at work, I often plan city tours and team recreational activities for our training sessions.

I have had numerous opportunities to interact with folks who are just different all the time, and I have mixed reactions. At times, I am amused; on other occasions, I take it in my stride by adapting to the change. But occasionally, I have also experienced frustration and mistrust to such rapid-changing personalities.

Ivy Ang (BBA 1998):

I am usually the same at work and at play. I like to make things happen. At work, I know the objectives, timelines and goals, and I go for it. In life, I have a mental idea of what I want, and I go for it. But in life, you are only accountable to yourself. Whereas, at work, there are other stakeholders, so the degree of being a goal-getter is different – there is more give and take in my personal life.

If someone is different at work and at play, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have different personalities. Their objectives could be the same, but they are using a different approach. If you are laid back at home, it may be because you want to empower the others and make them feel good so that they get the job done.

 

ONE AND THE SAME

Kim Chun Keen (MSc 2003):

I am quite the same person whether at play or work. At play, I need to be focused when doing certain things, such as my running routine, my squash fixtures, etc. But it’s to a lesser degree compared to work. Yet, dealing with tough opponents at sports, trying to seek their weaknesses, or strategizing how to win in a match against them, are similar to sizing up your competitors in the real business world. At work, needless to say, concentration is paramount. On the flip side, however, I am generally a “fun” person who always injects pleasurable elements into work. Work cannot be all serious, otherwise it would be hard to go on with life as we work so many hours a day.

Work and play are sometimes two different worlds because of the stakes involved. At play, example, even in a competition, should you not win, so what? That’s life! There is only one winner or one gold medalist. You didn’t lose that much. At work however, each time we slacken, we may end up losing a lot in financial terms, the organization may face failure, or fall foul of the authorities. Such downsides can affect many people and circumstances. Hence, while I play hard and work hard, the way I work hard would be quite a different dimension from playing hard.

Amy Cheok (Master of International Business 2004):

At work, I am aggressive when the situation calls for it, and I always meet my deadlines. But I make leisure part of my life. For instance, I exercise four times a week after work. While some think that is hard work. it’s part of my routine, just like brushing my teeth. You could say I am disciplined at both work and play.

I think between my family and I, my friends and I, and my colleagues and I, there is mutual respect and understanding for one another, and there are no different sides of me for people to reach differently to. I am pretty much the same person both at the office and at leisure time – my sense of humor is always with me wherever I am. However, there is a time for light-heartedness and a time to get dead serious, depending on the circumstances. For example, I am a tough negotiator when it comes to business because my company’s interests are foremost. But when I buy, say, something of value such as jewellery for myself from my merchant friend, I tend to be more forgiving in the negotiating process. In both scenarios, I have been told, my sense of humor has helped to defuse many a tense moment.

However, it is not uncommon for some people to vary their personas according to the social environment they are in. Using the office as an example, there are likely to be some stern and unfriendly workers who adopt a relaxed posture the minute they clock out. Maybe this group of people feel tensed or stressed in an official setting; or believe it is safer to let their hair down outside the office. without superiors watching over their shoulders and when the lid on the pressure cooker is off.

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