Friday, July 27, 2007

Role Playing

To what extent is the ability to play a role an essential part of a job?

Most jobs carry a certain number of stereotypes. Whether we are considering doctors, lawyers, professors, plumbers, truck drivers, or whatever, a certain expected image pops up. Some individuals who go against that image may brilliantly blaze a trail of their own and yet others may find that the expected image is not devoid of logic. It has been noted that if you look like a Hell's Angel and tell people you are an accountant, they won't believe you. Conversely, if you look like an accountant and tell them you're a Hell's Angel they also won't believe that.

Professional roles require a certain amount of superficial behavior for several reasons:

  1. They reassure followers and customers that the role-player's conduct will meet expectations.

  2. They provide a comfortable level of predictability.

  3. They give the role player an unwritten script with which to handle unexpected events; e.g., "This is how a professional [fill in the blank] is supposed to behave."

It is easy to regard role playing as phony or insincere. Those who ignore its benefits, however, need to create an alternative that possesses equally powerful positives.


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