Am I the only person that finds it annoying when someone says, "its business, not personal?" I get it; maybe I am just a sensitive, emotional (blah, blah, blah) female, but when you put a good amount of time and energy into your career, it is almost impossible for things not to become personal. With that being said, my disclaimer is: there is a fine line between emotional and personal, and it is not okay to cry at work or react irrationally when some does something you don't like.
However, I truly believe that one of the reasons my business has made it this far is because I have personal relationships (not in some type of inappropriate way, but we are friends) with most of my clients. I know their kids names and ages. I know what they like to do in their free time. We meet up for happy hour sometimes. On the phone, we have conversations about life, not only all work, all the time. If you can actually become friends with the people you work with/for, it makes you more irreplaceable.
I think a lot of times people work too hard to have one persona in the professional world, and another one in regular life. This isn't really necessary. If you learn to add a more human touch to your work, then you become more one-of-a-kind -- not to sound cheesy -- because no one else is exactly like you. So, throw out all the old rules, and try to be more personal at work. Here are a few ways to do that:
1) Really communicate with your boss.
It is fine to be honest with your bosses and clients about how you feel in certain situations, but obviously always remember to be respectful. If you don't agree with something, it is okay to mention it. You weren't hired to be a "yes" person: You were hired for your expertise. If you have a different idea or are concerned about something, there should always be an opportunity to bring it up. A lot of times, open communication can nip the problem in the bud before it escalates.
At one of my internships in college, the boss was extremely tough, and people were terrified to come to her with a problem. Thus, a lot of times situations got blown out of proportion before she was brought in on it. If her employees had talked to her in the beginning, there would have been a lot less issues. As a boss now, it is important for me to know how the people working with me feel about certain situations. This way if issues do arise, they know they can discuss them with me. It just creates a more productive work place.
2) It is okay to mix personal and work.
The reality is with social media, we don't have a real separation between work and personal life. So, why are we trying so hard to create one? It is okay to actually be friends with your coworkers because this makes work a more pleasant place. When you are an actual person, and show some vulnerability, it makes you harder to replace. People actually want to work with you. It is fine to spend time with your coworkers in a social setting, as long as it doesn't impact your work. It is not such a bad thing when our work and personal lives interact on social media and in real life. Since you already spend so much time with your coworkers and boss, it should be normal to know them on a personal level!
3) Be yourself at work.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people know they have to be professional, so they lose all personality. For example, I hate when people come to interviews, and they just have canned answers to questions. Instead, infuse everything you do with your personality -- this helps to create a personal brand. Putting on a professional act seems phony, and it is easier to become a dime a dozen. Why yes, obviously your skills are important, but your peers also have similar skills. Not everyone has your charming personality! However, use your common sense, and don't be inappropriate either!
When you spend so much time and energy on any one thing, it becomes part of who you are. There is no point in trying to make your career not personal. It is okay to become more open and get a little bit deeper with your coworkers because you do spend so much time together. So, why not become real friends? It can even make work more enjoyable. Would that be so terrible?