In fifth grade I was given my first major research assignment; pick a sea animal and write a report on it.

The week before we had prepared for this topic by watching videos on all types of sea life.  As a ten year old kid, it didn’t surprise me why I ended up picking the octopus.

I found them fascinating because they could reshape their bodies to squeeze through cracks, change colors at the blink of an eye, and squirt ink like a fountain pen on steroids.

The octopus was my literal super hero of the sea.

But of all the octopuses amazing abilities, one grabbed my eye more than the others…their ability to camouflage.

For example, here we are swimming in the ocean.  Isn’t that coral beautiful?

I don’t know something feels odd about this perfectly swaying coral let’s get closer.

Oh my gosh…why is this coral suddenly changing colors on me?

My bad.  I was mistaken, it’s is an octopus.

Awesome right? (Full Video here if you want to see it.)

Maybe I still am a kid at heart, but it got me thinking about something.

Are we not that much different than this majestic sea monster when it comes to our own behavior?

Do we camouflage our true selves as we transition from life to work?

Let me explain

You wake up in the morning to make yourself breakfast before heading to work.

You’re smiling as you read the latest updates of your favorite sites and wait for your bread to toast.

You feel relaxed, at peace, like nothing’s going to stop you from having an awesome morning.

Then fast forward to arriving at work.

Now things are starting to change.  You feel a knot in your stomach from the stress.

Your boss wants you to be more forceful and aggressive with people on the phone, even though it’s not in your nature.  You do it anyways.

At lunch you are surrounded by people who could be described as “sharks” but you play nice and agree with their ideas out of fear of getting “eaten alive” for having an opinion against their norm.

Later that afternoon your brain is hurting from hours of data entry which tends to bore and frustrate you.  If you had it your way you’d outsource or delegate it and spend your time doing more productive work suited for your talents.

But you focus on the job and get it done anyways.

When 5:00pm arrives you feel a second wind coming.  You’re excited to go home where you can work on the model you’re building, speak at your book club, or lead your team in slam dunks at Tuesday Night Hoops!

So like thousands of other professionals across the world, at 5:00pm you take off your work face and put on your true face…you’re happy face.

Why Do We Do It?

Obviously wearing “camo” to work isn’t easy.  We feel uncomfortable and stressed out of our mind, but we have to do it right?

1.  Survival

Sometimes if you don’t do your job a certain way, you may be in jeopardy of losing it.  So you adapt and evolve, stepping out of your comfort zone in order to get the work done.

2.  To Fit In

We all know companies have a culture.  Hopefully your company fits your values, but sometimes there may be conflict.  Maybe it’s the competitive atmosphere, the strictness to rules, or lack of social interaction.

Sometimes we have to be someone else just to fit in.

3.  It’s In Our Nature

We are conditioned at an early age to put on our “camo” when we leave the house.

Remember your first few days at school?  I do.

As a kid, I was a tyrant.  I would tease my sister, hit my brother, neglect my chores, but at school…I was an angel.

I knew “out there” I couldn’t get away with certain things,  like I might at home.  I had to be on my best behavior, so I did.

We instinctively carried that into our jobs.

At home we were free to be ourselves, at work we were free to be what the company wanted us to be.

Sometimes if you were lucky and wise enough to find the right job, it meshed and fit like a glove.

Other times well…it was like visiting Hell.

My Advice to All “Camo” Workers

1.  Understand Your Natural and Adapted Behaviors

The best way to avoid spending your time at a job that goes against your natural behavior is to understand your natural and adapted behaviors.

An excellent tool to do this are DISC and Values Assessments.  Here’s a sample if you want to see what they will help you discover.

2.  Adapt Where Necessary, Avoid When Possible

Not even people who work for themselves will spend 100% of their time doing stuff they enjoy or that falls under their natural behavior.  From time to time, we need to adapt, and it will do us well to learn this quickly.

But if you find yourself constantly dancing from your true self to your “camo” self, you’re in danger of major burnout or stress.

When possible avoid situations or jobs that have you out of line with your natural behavior.  If the company culture has noticeable differences that conflict with your preferred style of working, look else where.  You’ll thank me later.

What Would An Octopus Tell You?

Again, like the super hero of the sea, we flash into our camouflage when our instincts tell us we need to survive or “fit in,” but not even the octopus stays in this form for long.

He could look like anything, yet if given a choice…he chooses to look like himself.

image courtesy of Jennifer A. Villalovos

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22 thoughts on “Are You Wearing Camo to Work And Don't Even Know It?

  1. Years ago I struggled to fit into work environments that just didn’t fit! In my younger years I worried that there was something wrong with me for not fitting in and I was often dissatisfied and unhappy.

    In my 20s I gained confidence and realized there was nothing wrong with me and I was simply in the wrong environment for me. Ever since I accepted myself and discovered my talents and strengths I have enjoyed more positive work experiences. I don’t believe any job is worth my time, and I have passed on job offers that weren’t a good fit for me.

    Being true to myself has allowed me to enjoy greater success by working to my strengths and being uniquely me!

    Chrysta

    • Bryce Christiansen

      That’s exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a problem so many of us experience and we feel like something is wrong with us.

      It really is about understanding ourselves and the environments we put ourselves in.

      You said it beautifully,

      Bryce

  2. The octopus sure did catch me too Bryce!

    I could never make out that was an octopus if you hadn’t mentioned it- guess it was so well camouflaged ! Gosh!!

    I loved your post and most of all the advice to the camo workers to adapt where necessary , which is so important.

    Thanks for sharing and have a great week ahead :)

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Thanks Harleena,

      Glad I could share something different today. Hopefully this post will resonate with that crowd.

      Looking forward to the week myself.

      I’ll be over to your site soon.

      Bryce

  3. I love this post (and I love ostopusses too!). I try to fit in at work to a point, but I know when to drop the camouflage when necessary, like when a coworker is out of line or when I’m asked to do something unethical. I think people can pick up on when you’re not being genuine. There have been situations where I’ve regretted hiding my feelings, but I’ve never regretted being true to myself.

    • Bryce Christiansen

      That’s a good po9int about being genuine.

      In speech it can be felt and noticed if someone isn’t being true to their words.

      In actions however, it is much easier to put up a facade between work and home. I pretended the heck out of actually being excited to make cold calls at my last job, because it made the difference between having a job and not having one.

      It wasn’t fun pretending, but I had to and for the most part it was believable. You sure can notice the difference when you actually are enjoying what you do without having to pretend.

      Bryce

  4. This is a great analogy, Bryce! =) Those shots of the camouflaged octopus are amazing! I had no idea octopi could do that! And I can definitely see how I used to do that in certain work settings. For me, it was all about the environment. In some, I thrived and barely had to camouflage myself at all, while in others, I was near the burnout you describe because I wasn’t me at all. As I enter job hunting again, this is something I’ll keep at the forefront of my mind!

    Thanks, friend!

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Hi Samantha,

      It’s tough looking for a new job. So many mysteries for you to figure out and you can never be sure enough of how the next gig will turn out.

      Glad this article could be relevant enough for you. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

      Bryce

  5. Terrific use of the photos, Bryce.
    We do spend a Life of adapting to others’ expectations and or behaviours. Hopefully after a while we discover our own ‘truth’ and live life as we are meant to. Adapting is certainly a paret of survival, an instinct we have been born with to varying extents. Great analogy with the ‘camo thing’…well done.
    be good to yourself
    David

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Thanks David,

      Glad you enjoyed this. It was something that hit me after seeing the video of the octopus. I realized, “Hey, we do that but in a less obvious way.”

      I’m happy that came forth in the writing and resonated with other experts such as yourself.

      Thanks,

      Bryce

  6. Hey Bryce,

    Great topic.
    How do we determine flexibility. Too much flexible and everyone will walk on us. Too rigid and we will not be called a team player. It is indeed an everyday equation and we need to think before we get into the office.
    When do I take a rigid stance? When I know that the thing people are asking me to do is going to hurt my team or me in the long term also if it is not beneficial to the company.
    But I am flexible when by giving the ground, I actually win over a few more friends. I have often done this in my consulting career.
    However I find it hard to compromise when the other side is just trying to bully me with their stance.
    The octopus is a great example of when to be rigid and when to be flexible. The important thing is to keep an open mind but never be scared of taking a stand if needed.

    • Bryce Christiansen

      I like your criteria Ashvini,

      Many professionals play by the seat of their pants and have little emotional intelligence when it comes to how they should respond to situations.

      Having your camo skills fine tuned to the right level will ultimately keep you balanced at work and home. Too much camo and you’ll suffer from stress and unhappiness. Too little camo and people may see you as not being a team player and helping the company.

      Great job,

      Bryce

  7. Hi Bryce,

    I tried a number of different jobs when I was starting my career to see if I would be a good fit. Finally, I took a teaching job which had been my major in college and my initial intent. I realized quickly that this is where I belonged and where I could be myself. It is stressful to be in a job where you can’t show your true self. You make a good point that it is so important to find the work environment that fits who you really are. Take care.

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Thanks Cathy,

      I enjoyed your post today. Great job on the interview with Tess.

      You asked great questions.

      Also, thanks for the comment here. It means alot to our readers to be able to see examples of how this has played out in other’s lives. We have a lot of young readers who appreciate the advice and feedback that comes in the comments such as these ones.

      Bryce

  8. Bryce, it’s easy to become a camo worker. It’s much harder to keep your mind at peace with who you are and what your goal is. And it’s so darn easy to get distracted. But if you can hold onto what matters, you’ll accomplish your goals. Every time. As long as it takes.

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Thanks Bryan,

      Your advice is always solid.

      It’s so important like you said to hold onto what matters.

      Appreciate your words,

      Bryce

  9. Fascinating about the octopus, Bryce.

    I honestly never knew those facts about them. Well… I was familiar about the ink part; other than that I didn’t know much about them. I can definitely see how they would catch your attention though. I enjoyed the video, as well.

    You make valid points about the things we change about ourselves at work. Although I haven’t actually work for three years now as far as being surrounded by co-workers and bosses, I’ve not been gone so long that I’ve forgot about this very thing. It’s actually one of the things that I don’t miss about being apart of the workforce.

    I enjoy the liberty of being my own boss, and it actually works better for me. I get more done without having to blend in with other individuals. I’ve never been much for blending. Even as a flight attendant having to wear uniforms; I would wear my favorite colorful socks to add a bit of my own personality. I think that’s also the main reason I choose to work so hard at what I’m currently doing, because I don’t know how I would actually react if I had to reenter the camo-zone! :D

    • Bryce Christiansen

      Hi Deeone,

      I love your socks! That would make me smile seeing a flight attendant doing something out of the box to be themselves.

      Blending is difficult and can be hurtful, so I can understand how you must feel to be working on your own now. Must be nice.

      I as well, hope you don’t have to reenter the camo-zone any time soon.

      Bryce

  10. Bryce, I enjoyed your post. I actually did wear camo to work when I was in the military, hahaa. I think we become most frustrated when we come to the belief that our jobs don’t add up to anything. When we hand our results over to the company and don’t get much in return except maybe a pat on the back. Most of us need employers so we can pay our bills. That’s understandable, but its important that we are building something for ourselves in the meantime. There’s nothing like a good legacy project to turn your spirit around.

    • Bryce Christiansen

      You hit the spot there. It’s about building something for ourselves.

      If you are only helping the business with THEIR goals, and THEIR vision, and THEIR dreams…and none of those really coincide with your own.

      You are in for a world of camo work and unhappiness therefore.

      Great advice Scott,

      Thanks for the visit,

      Bryce

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