Why I mix the professional and the personal

By | 2012/11/24

I know quite a few people who end up having more than one Twitter account. One will be for business purposes, and the other will be for personal.

I understand why they do it – I even understand why some social media “experts” say you should do it. But I can’t – and I won’t.

I mix my professional life and my personal life when I’m talking online because they are mixed. They’re part of me. They’re facets of the personality and the identity known as “Preston de Guise”. Businesses may seek out someone because of their professional skills, but whether or not they can use them depends on their personality and how they are able to interact with others, which comes the personal. Personal. Personality. You can see how they’re related.

Business I think gets too stodgy about such things. In business we deal with Jane the CIO, or Alexandru the Senior Architect, or Ethan the Support Consultant, but thinking of them in just that single facet is two dimensional and may rob them of their vibrancy as a person. You see, Jane may be the CIO, but she may also be the grieving daughter of a father who recently passed away. Alexandru may be the Senior Architect, but he may also be the proud father of a baby boy, born three days ago. And Ethan may be the Support Consultant, but he may also be someone struggling with sleep apnoea and insomnia.

What people are when they step away from the office and their jobs typically plays a much more significant part in their personality than what they are when we’re dealing with them for business.

We don’t always have to be in total agreement with what they do in their personal lives – after all, on a daily basis many of us do business with people we don’t necessarily agree with on a professional level. They may have a different view on a piece of technology, or they may approach management from a polar opposite perspective of how we’d do things. Yet, we deal with that on a daily basis.

People aren’t two-dimensional. I’m certainly not. The views I come to from a professional perspective are grounded in who I am personally. I could separate the two, but as I’ve seen when other people choose to do this, their personal lives can become subject of gossip and titillation and used against them in a professional arena by small minded people who think knowing some “secret” about the person gives them an advantage.

In business, we like to have a passion for what we do, but that passion derives its strength from our personal passions, too. To hide those passions just because some people may find them uncomfortable or take offence robs ourselves and rewards people who don’t deserve it. After all, Stephen Fry is quoted as having said:

It’s now very common to hear people say, “I’m rather offended by that”, as if it gives them certain rights; it’s actually nothing more … it’s simply a whine. It’s no more than a whine. “I find that offensive”, it has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. “I am offended by that”, well so fucking what?

I have no doubt some people may find it uncomfortable doing business with me knowing that I’m gay, that I’m in a non-traditional relationship, that I’m supportive of marriage equality, that I’m supportive of polyamorous and polygamous groupings, and so on and so forth. But that defines me. That gives me my passions. My strength and refusal to give in unless I can be concretely disproved, professionally, comes from the simple fact that growing up gay in a small country town you have to develop a strength for knowing you’re right even if lots of people disagree with you. My ability to stand in a room as a consultant and listen to some angry person venting at me because of a management decision his or her company made comes from coming out, on an almost daily basis.

Like it or not, if you want to understand me as a professional, you can’t deny the rest of me exists. Nor will I deny you your personal life, either.

We’d all be better off – both in business and in our personal lives – if we acknowledged that simple fact: if people aren’t breaking any laws, then they’re entitled to do what they want in their personal lives, even if we wouldn’t do it themselves. And what they do in their personal lives gives them the qualities they need in business.

One thought on “Why I mix the professional and the personal

  1. Dan

    You sir, are a very interesting man. That’s one of the most fascinating discussions I’ve read on the issue, thanks for sharing 🙂

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