Photo by Kyle Head on Unsplash

Actors at Work

“All the world’s a stage,‌‌And all the men and women merely players;‌‌They have their exits and their entrances,‌‌And one man in his time plays many parts”

William Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It

Whether you like it or not, you are the starring actor at your day job. You are the main character, and the whole sitcom revolves around you. The spotlight is on you because we don't have any other perspective. So the question is, who is directing this sitcom? Is it a comedy, is it a drama, or is it both? And the biggest question is whether you are aware you are on stage.

"Not me," you say. Do you have a title? Your answer gives a clue about your role and where they fit into the company's drama.

Titles

Unfortunately, titles matter at work. They help because it is easy to differentiate between a Junior blah blah and a Senior blah blah. The challenge with some titles is that they only provide the duration or age of the employee. Titles don't provide the value or competence of the employee. They are incomplete, but they tell you a lot about how your co-actors (co-workers) will act. CEOs act differently than Junior employees, and both will follow stereotypes. Of course, this isn't always true, but the CEO will own the room for the most part, and a junior employee will make dumb mistakes. Both are actors in the same play, and knowing this can help you have a more neutral (and less stressful) view of your day job.

Seeing the Play from the Directors Chair

Directors have a global view of the play and see how the parts blend. We can learn from the director and have a global view of our work. Knowing that each person is an actor (or has an agenda) will help you see the bigger picture. So next time you are in a meeting, view it as a director would.

Things a Director looks for

  1. Authority — Who owns the room? Specifically, look for the power structure outside of most senior employees.
  2. Influence — Who has it, and where. You will find niche experts everywhere if you look at where people have influence.
  3. Word order matters — What people mention first usually matters the most. If people lead with money, they are usually money-driven. If they lead with a mission and vision, they are usually visionary.
  4. Conflict — What play doesn't include a little drama? Watch how and who manages the conflict, and you might learn a little something.
  5. Relationships — See relationships in action. Who has who's back? These relational ties are often more than just an act and are go beyond work.

Watch the actors pay attention to the roles each plays. Be curious, and a whole new world will open up. One that you didn't know you were playing in.

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