Are you a chameleon at work?

The evolutionary advantage for these often stunningly multi-coloured creatures of Madagascar has become a common metaphor for describing how people can appear differently in different situations –“she’s a bit of a chameleon”. How can being a chameleon be an advantage at work?

The ability to change colour signals a chameleon’s intentions to other chameleons and can also be about reacting to temperature changes. They tend to show darker colours when angered or attempting to scare or intimidate others, while males show lighter patterns when courting females.

Chameleon skinChameleons use their advantage as camouflage against predators. Did you also know that a chameleon looks in two directions at the same time? Its super-powered vision acts like a 360 degrees CCTV camera. A collective noun for a group of chameleons doesn’t exist. How about karma of chameleons or illusion of chameleons?

Being flexible like a chameleon is a highly sought after attribute by employers. They want new employees to adapt to the culture of their organisation and prefer you to hit the ground running. You have to be resilient to deal with the unfamiliar and an uncertain business environment.

Communication styles vary between people – some like email, others hate it; some prefer texting, others the openness of social media; more and more are using real time collaboration platforms; and face-to-face ranges from eyeball-to-eyeball to iMac-to-iMac. Some argue differences in communication preferences today are more apparent due to the multi-generational workplace. For me, everyone is a unique individual who deserves better than a lazy assumption.

Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change – Stephen Hawking

It takes two to tango so we have to look inwardly first to understand our own communication preferences and then assess what works for the other person. We become skilled through practice at flexing our response to meet both our own needs and the other person. We soon learn that tensions and misunderstandings arise if you dig your heels in or simply misjudge your tone of voice.

Adapting is a survival technique for a chameleon. We adapt to the prevailing conditions to survive or thrive in our jobs and need an all round view to know how to deal with diverse work relationships. How we do that – the colours we radiate – is unique to each person. Find your true colours.