Reading through Andy Headworth's mostly fabulous 2010 PDF, '50 Top Tips for Jobseekers' this lunch time, I came across one tip in particular that, I'll admit, made my stomach lurch. “Employers want fun employees,” it read, “they don't want overly sarcastic, rude or too opinionated employees!!”
Now, the rude part I understand, but I'm in PR, which means I do a lot of writing. Where would my writing be if I wasn't sarcastic or opinionated? Indeed, like my hero, Charlie Brooker, I've always tried to inject a little healthy cynicism into my writing and naturally, as somebody who writes about pretty much everything, I also have strong opinions about... well, pretty much everything!
I have, on occasion, caught friends, family and colleagues rolling their eyes when I go into another rant about the latest news or what I deem to be another of society's failings and perhaps my personality type isn't for everyone.
However, it's a necessary part of who I am and one that's essential to me being able to perform my job well. It doesn't outweigh my other qualities of having a strong work ethic, a sense of loyalty to the company I work for or an eagerness to learn and grow.
Charlie Brooker is one of the most popular personalities on TV. He's also a sarcastic git. As is Paul Merton, Ian Hislop, David Mitchell... I could go on. In fact, many popular TV presenters have gained their status because of their sarcastic and opinionated nature. Although the British public love them on TV, would they become “too much” in an office?
To say that employers “don't want” opinionated, sarcastic staff is to stifle a potentially valuable voice in their organisation. To have opinions is to have passion, to start debates is to generate ideas, to be cynical about society is to be able to understand it from many angles – are these not qualities that should be valued?
Of course, there has to be a middle ground. It’s counterproductive to hire somebody who’s rude to their team, sarcastic about other people’s ideas and opinionated to the point of stubbornness. There’s definitely a difference between opinionated and argumentative.
Having said that, like any personality type, sarcastic loud-mouths such as myself learn by experience in an office. I often check myself when I think I've gone on too much and always do my best to make sure I'm listening as much as I'm talking, to be open to the ideas of others and to try to keep it on the non-offensive side of things. I may not always succeed, but I know that with the negatives come great benefits to my inherent nature and that, as my career continues, so will I learn to hone the great results and filter out the side effects!
I guess my overriding point is that a great manager does not exclude people based on personality type. As long as somebody is hardworking, honest, great at what they do, open to change and criticism and kind to those around them, they can be the life and soul of the party, the retiring wallflower or even (shock, horror) the sarky one with a lot to say.
With experience and a good mentor, anyone can overcome the obstacles their personality presents and turn those negatives into the things that really make their career.