Business People vs. People People

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Are you a business person or a people person?

Are you a take-charge, no-nonsense employee or manager? Do you believe that you (or your employees) are there to work, and that down-time or non-work related activities should be consigned to fifteen minute breaks every two hours? Or altogether eliminated until the whistle blows at five? Are you a proponent of the gospel of work hard and play harder, but play only comes after doing a solid eight hours of hard work?

Or are you a social butterfly, making sure to check in with everyone on your journey from the front door to your office or cubicle? Have you ever encountered a personal conversation at work that you didn’t have an opinion about? Are you sure to greet everyone who passes by, whether they’re engaged in conversation with someone else or not? Do you consider sitting at your desk for more than twenty minutes without any human interaction to be cruel and unusual punishment?

Of course, these two synopses are caricatures of the traditional business person and people person. No one wholly embodies one extreme to the exclusion of the other. If they did, they wouldn’t have a job for very long. The caricatured business person would soon lose the buy-in and respect of his or her employees, and the people person illustrated above would soon meet the business end of a poor performance review.

On the other hand, everyone leans in one direction or the other, favors one behavior above the other. There are business-minded people who recognize that they must interact with their co-workers in order to function properly within the workspace, just as there are people-minded managers and employees that have to constantly remind themselves that they have a job to do.

The trick is finding the happy medium between the two, and that is almost always only gained through experience. No one is born knowing when to work and when to play – it’s a learned response that is slightly different in every environment. This is why it is important to give new employees that much-needed time to acclimate to their new work regimen. They need to observe their co-workers in action to get a feel for “how things are done” in their new surroundings.

Possessing an appropriately proportionate balance between being a business person and being a people person often means the difference between success and failure in the workplace. As a manager, it’s knowing when to be part of the gang, and when to draw the line and mete out the praise or constructive criticism. As an employee, the same holds true – knowing where the line is, being aware of its constantly shifting nature, and being prepared to adapt when necessary is one of the hallmarks of a great employee.

Make no mistake, though – both characteristics are vitally important for all members of every organization, big and small. It is imperative in order to keep the workplace humming like a well-oiled machine for each individual to understand and accept their roles within the group, and live up to the expectations of the organization.

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