I am starting to notice that many professionals (myself included) change their characters and personalities depending on whether they are in the career/job mode or personal life mode.  For example, I have no problem asking for many things or even push the envelope while I am at work to get things done.  Yet I rarely ask friends for favors outside of the work context.  It’s obvious I don’t fear rejection because 1) I already ask for help at work, and 2) some of the favors I would have asked my friends would have resulted in a yes more often than a no.  So why do I carry myself so differently between my two worlds?

It’s not just me either.  I have friends who take many risks at work to get more pay or promotion, yet they don’t take half the risk in their personal lives:  they would rather visit restaurants where they have gone before instead of trying new ones; men would only ask out those women whom they know won’t say no to them.  The opposite is also true, by the way.  I have friends who take huge risks in their personal lives yet they play it as safe as they can be when it comes to their careers.

From what I can tell, this difference exists in all ethnicity and spans across both genders and all age groups.  But why?  Most of us can’t even separate our work from our personal lives with gadgets such as the crackberries attached to our bodies 24/7, so how do we so easily switch between our characters and personalities when we are at work and when we are at home?

And since I don’t ask nearly enough in my personal life, I am going to buck the trend and ask you for help in solving this mystery.  Do you know of any studies (or even your own experience) to explain why people take completely different approaches to their professional and personal lives?  Perhaps you have a theory you want to share — please add them to the comments section.  Thanks very much!

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