To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child , a garden patch, or a redeemed condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, June 24, 2011

Split personality?

Can someone have one type of personality (or behaviour style) at work and another, totally different one in personal life?

The question arose in my mind while doing as mundane a thing as watching an episode of a Hindi soap on TV called 'Baray Achchhay Lagtay Hain...' (loosely translated as 'we like it so much...' - actually from the opening stanza of a song from a Hindi movie of yore, 'Atithi' starring Sachin).  The soap supposedly deals with the life of a couple who get married 'late' (as per Indian standards) i.e. 40 for the man and 33 for the woman (though it seems to be taking excruciatingly long, in true TV soap style, getting to the point where they actually get married).

The main male character Ram (the name cleverly aluding to Lord Rama, thus building up a positive imagery from the beginning), supposedly a business tycoon, is introduced in a boardroom scene involving an acquisition, where his ruthless business sense is well displayed, though also tinged with pragmatism when, after having rejected the deal once, he goes back to the negotiating table and seals it only for the reason that he needs the plane that the company's owner has, to get back to base for his sister's wedding!  In another scene, he's shown working his executives even on a Sunday (though he relents when they start receiving calls from their families, one after the other!).

Regardless of such scenes interspersed, hinting at Ram's 'soft side', his 'alpha male' personality is further reinforced when he gets vengeful on the family of the main female character Priya for delaying him from reaching his late father's memorial service (when their cars scrape past each other).  The trait is again displayed when he deals aggressively with Priya's family when his sister slashes herself due to the unresponsiveness of Priya's brother with whom she's supposedly in love.

However, the guy is shown as 'super soft and sensitive' in scenes involving his family.  It seems he allows his step-mom to walk all over him, even while he realizes perhaps that she's sort of exploiting him (for instance, by deliberately blocking marriage proposals for him) while not according him the same status as her own son (who must be present for his sister's wedding, even as Ram makes all the arrangements!).  She even puts him down firmly when he hints that his late father's (and her late husband's) memorial ceremony is perhaps more important than attending an auction.  But Ram continues to go all mush and weak-in-the-knees on anything involving his family (including the little sis who seems total bonkers).

So, to return to the original question, can a person have such 'split personality'?  Some would say: ideally, yes.  There is a saying "Don't bring your office home".  But in today's world, is this really achievable, or more of a utopia?  Can a hard-driving executive really just 'switch off' when s/he leaves office and assume another, perhaps 'softer'/more benevolent avatar before s/he reaches home?  That could also mean, especially in these BlackBerry times when one is supposed to be 'online' 24x7, that the person would've to 'switch-on/switch-off' rapidly in a matter of minutes between his/her 'office personality' and 'home personality'!  Is that doable?  The answer seems more like a tentative "Maybe", even for putative supermen/women!

Which brings us round to the other side of the equation: does one's 'home personality' (see above) affect one's 'office personality'?  Again, ideally it is not meant to.  One is supposed to assume a more 'professional' attitude/behavior (whatever that means, in the specific context) once s/he enters office, leaving behind personal issues.  However, this also seems more ideal than realistic.  Just as (to be PC!) 'behind every successful (wo)man there is an ideal spouse'(i), can we perhaps say that 'behind every grumpy boss there is a quarrelsome spouse', or even that 'behind every confidence-deficient executive there is a domineering spouse'?! (:-).

Begs the question.

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