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Can a Free Spirit Survive in an Office Environment?

Suzanne Lucas

How to Be Yourself and Succeeding in a Corporate Setting

When you were in school, was the teacher constantly saying, "Sit down!" or "Keep your hands to yourself!" or "Go sit in the hallway until you're ready to do your work?"

Or, were you the kid that colored the sky purple and the grass yellow and generally made drove your teacher up the wall by your inability to follow directions? You could, of course, follow directions, but you chose not to. 

Some people grow out of this by the adulthood, and the lucky ones keep that free spirit. There's no moral reason a picture needs to be colored a certain way, and it's only convention that tells us the best way to work is to sit at a desk.

It can be difficult for someone who focuses on results to work in an office where facetime and rule following seem to be the keys to success. Here are some hints for surviving an office environment. Here are six tips for surviving and thriving in an office.

1. Be Up Front With Your Boss

Don't pretend that your dream is to sit in a half-cube, staring at a computer screen for eight hours straight. Let your boss know the way you work the best. For instance, "I need a change of scenery from time to time. Sometimes, I would like to work for a couple hours at a coffee shop, some days I'd like to work from home. Is that at all possible?"

A lot of bosses have no problem with this type of flexible schedule. They just want to know that you're working. Sometimes, the installation of a program that lets your boss know when you're working on the computer gives your boss peace of mind that you're working when she can't see you.

2. Have a Hobby on the Side

If you are devoting every aspect of your life to work, you'll find yourself miserable. You need a creative outlet that it just yours.

When you have something to look forward to at the end of the work day, working can be a lot easier. Plus, your dream hobby may even eventually turn into its own career--and that might fit your free spirit better.

3. Focus on a More Creative Job

It's not just about being a graphic designer or some similar "artistic" job that works for a free spirit. Outside salespeople often have a lot of flexibility in how the schedule their day and how they conduct their sales.

Trainers can develop their own curriculum and when conducting classes get to have good flexibility on how they do it. Of course this varies from business to business, but if you want to express yourself, choose a job that allows for a bit of expression.

4. Change Your Job for the Better

You know what I hate? Repetitive work. I can spend all day writing, no problem, but sending out invoices? I'd rather stick pins in my eyes. (Not literally, as I do like to get paid for my work.

So, you know what I do? Automate as much as possible. In every job there are boring tasks that have to be done. Some can be automated. A good macro in Excel or Access can automate hours worth of monthly reports.

Don't know how to do this? Take a class. The few hours you spend in class (either in person on online) can make your life blissfully free of tedium. 

Evaluate what things are important and what things are not. I can guarantee you that there are things you do every day, which you hate, that you don't have to do.

Yes, it's your free spirit that can't stand them, but your boss will love it if you get rid of them under the guise of "efficiency." If you can be more efficient, just think of what you can accomplish! Bosses love that.

5. Be a Genius

This may seem like a ridiculous suggestion. It's not like you can wake up and say, "I've been average my whole life, but today I'm Einstein!"

Sure, raising your IQ might be hard, but you are a genius in something. Everyone can be. Be a genius at your job. Learn everything there is to learn about your job.

Be an absolute expert. Why? Because once you can do this, you get a lot more freedom in how you spend your day.

When you're the subject matter expert, you become more valuable. This isn't to say you should hoard information. It's just an admonition to work as hard as you can to be very, very good at what you do.

When you are very, very good at what you do, you get a lot more leeway. If you're just barely meeting targets, and you ask to come in at 10:00 or work from home, forget it. But, if you're rocking your targets and everyone respects 

6. Change Your Environment

Unless you work for one of those super uptight companies that don't allow you to put personal items on your desk, decorate your cube or your spot on the table or whatever you have.

Change it up from time to time. Include little toys, like a Rubik's cube or magnets that you can play with when your brain gets stuck.

Being a free spirit doesn't mean you can't be successful in the office. Just make it a better setting for you. You'll succeed and be happier.


Image Credit: frantic00 / Getty Images
Suzanne Lucas Member
Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate HR where she hired, fired, managed the numbers and double-checked with the lawyers. She now writes about how to make your business a success and your employees happy. Send her an email at