Breaking Office Habits: ‘The 21 Day Rule’

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Breaking Office Habits: ‘The 21 Day Rule’

Are you a product of your environment?
Breaking Office Habits: ‘The 21 Day Rule’
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On average it takes a minimum of 21 days to adapt to a new change or form a new habit. Which in reality, sounds like an unbelievably short amount of time.

Imagine dating someone for all of 3 weeks then BOOM it’s time to ditch the bra (or filets) and stop drawing on the brows because the process of adaptation has occurred and your favour of the month has just become your new handsome habit. That’s not quite how it works…

I’m not sure how feasible the 21 day rule is in the real world (get your head out the gutter, I’m not talking about ‘that’ 21 day rule), yet in the working world we’re expected to have gotten a firm grip of things within a 3 week period. Take Farrah Storr for example, she landed her first ever role within a women’s publication as a recent graduate. As an assistant at the age of 22, she had no idea how to navigate the career crossroads, therefore in the fast paced, high energy and aggressive office environment it appeared to her boss that Farrah wasn’t ‘hungry’ enough for the job. Luckily, she wasn’t fired! Her manager pulled her aside for a chat (nobody wants to have these chats) and gave her 3 weeks to prove that she was the right candidate for the role. Farrah is now the Editor of Cosmopolitan UK – How’s that for a success story!

The 21 day rule works. But in saying that, what we must realise is that forming new habits is not entirely positive. Just yesterday my boyfriend was sat in the passengers seat whilst his younger brother, a very new driver, tested out his new wheels. For years, his little brother had watched Gerald take control of a vehicle with one hand, weave in and out of traffic, speed through amber lights and blast music at unsociable volumes – all of which are very blatant bad habits. So now that it was finally his time to drive I wondered how many of Gerald’s bad habits his baby bro had picked up over years.

I’ve heard complete horror stories of new starters demonstrating poor behaviour they’d seen performed by older, more respected colleagues. A few weeks ago at dinner, myself and a friend enjoyed a good laugh and bad cringe about the awful ‘learnt’ behaviours she’d witnessed by newbies in her various career moves within the industry. The worst of them all was one in which she told me about a lady that sat a few seats down from her – we’ll call her Emma for the sake of the story.

Every single day, twice in the morning and four times an afternoon, Emma would get her make-up bag out at her desk for a quick ‘check’. Lipstick – check! Eyeliner – check! Highlight – double check! Hair – check! No food in teeth, no bogey in nose and no new spots – great! Back to work. And so she would go on all day. When asked about why she did this at her desk, several times a day, Emma casually responded “I’m a woman aren’t I”. As if to insinuate that my friend was not and neither were the other 80% of female staff members. In Emma’s eyes, this was a totally acceptable birthright pertaining to her gender. Women were to stand up and be counted – and count your eyelashes whilst you’re at it.

Eventually Emma decided it was time to leave the business, which meant she’d be training the new starter. Less than 3 weeks had passed since Emma’s departure and the new girl was settling in well. Until, one day my friend turned around, only to witness her performing the ‘check’. Emma may have left, but not without indirectly teaching her successor what was acceptable behaviour in the office of a major French luxury footwear brand.

The best part of the story, which completely had me in stitches, was the fact that the new girl had not only continued Emma’s bad habit of pulling out a compact a few times a day, but she’d advanced to a full size mirror, safely stored in her draw – close by and always at arms reach. Always!

This got me thinking – I wonder if I picked up any bad habits whilst at Burberry? How long have you been in your job? Over that time, how many ‘negatives’ have your people passed onto you? Remember, bad habits learnt from others become worse habits performed in your life.

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