Chinese New Year 2023 was very early in the calendar this year, so when you read this post, the celebrations will already be in full swing.
This is the year of the water rabbit – and in keeping with our CNY posts, here we take a look at the personality characteristics of the new year animal and their application to the workplace.
So, what are the characteristics of the water rabbit – the desirable, and the problematic? We take the top-5 and look at their dynamics within employment.
The Rabbit Character
Generally speaking, the water rabbit is considered to be smart, and ambitious, and has strong attention to detail. The rabbit tends to bypass obstacles and people that it finds inappropriate and is therefore rarely irritated, hostile or aggressive. However, the rabbit can be quite sensitive and get offended quite easily. The rabbit is usually considered trustworthy, loyal and considerate, with strong creative skills. In the story of the Jade Emperor’s race, the rabbit jumped from one stone to another to cross the river, and was doing well until it slipped. Fortunately, there was a log passing by and it grabbed onto it, floating to the finish line and earning the fourth place. These actions give rise to the qualities of wit, vigilance and deftness.
1. Attention to detail
Important in any workplace setting is attention to detail. Naturally, if you’re creating reports for clients, you don’t want to have any spelling and grammatical errors. Equally, if you’re working in a laboratory, you’ll need to be all over the details as part of the scientific process.
But, it’s also possible to get bogged down in the details, losing sight of the bigger picture and timescales. Indeed, type-based psychometric tools such as Myers Briggs often position these characteristics as very different people-types – focused, analytical details person vs the charismatic productive salesperson.
In an article for LinkedIn Pulse entitled “The Difference Between Busy And Productive”, leadership coach Anzel Botha notes that;
“One of the most important steps in your transformation from a busy person to a productive person is to let go of your perfectionism. Being busy means working hard, but being productive also means working hard. When you run out of time, ask yourself what your priorities are... Being productive means not only doing most things but also doing the right things.”
Or, as someone wise once said to me when I was starting out on my career;
“Getting everything perfect is great, but you also have to get the project out the door”.
This might also be why zodiac rabbits are also referenced as people who leave projects unfinished. Finding that balance between details and delivery takes practice. For anyone struggling with this some good advice is to get some time management training, but also to practice putting yourself in your clients’ or stakeholders’ shoes – what is the raw outcome you need to see that helps you (the client) to do your job well?
2. Working well with others
Trustworthiness and being considerate will take you a long way in the workplace. We’ve moved on from the dog-eat-dog Gordon Gekko work ethos of the 1980s – a environment that’s a world away from Gen Z’s expectations. These are also essential behaviours to be an effective communicator and negotiator – soft skills that become increasingly important the further you progress within the management tiers. Indeed, in the flat, matrix and fluid team style working practices of today, the ability to work with a wide variety of people is ever more essential and learning to do this is now a foundation stone for work in any field. See our previous post on how to effectively work with others. However, there is a flip side to this expressed in the zodiac rabbit that is perhaps less healthy:
3. Avoiding disagreement
We never always agree with people. Leaning how to professionally disagree with people, learning to express your opinion effectively and accepting compromise are fundamental to both evolving in the workplace and growing as a human. Avoidance of conflict can manifest as people-pleasing (see our previous post on overcoming this, and also our post on the gentle art of saying no). In fact, we are now living in an age where workforces are becoming more and more diverse – and that diversity extends to opinions. Executives don’t want to build teams of yes-people. They need bright minds to challenge the received wisdom, to highlight errors, propose alternatives and push project forwards.
As Shayna Waltower writes for Business News Daily:
“ Healthy conflict allows for more creativity, stronger ideas and more engaged employees. Debates, competition and industry disruption are all examples of healthy conflict that can lead to fresh perspectives and growth for a business”
For further advice on this and how to start putting your disagreement into practice, I recommend Amy Gallo’s article “ Why We Should Be Disagreeing More at Work” for Harvard Business Review.
This is something of a double-edged sword. Loyalty to colleagues and co-workers is, of course, very important in securing those long-term, good-or-bad-times, solid relationships. Employers like to recognise loyalty internally and it demonstrates dedication and belief in the business and/or cause. As humans we are naturally social creatures, and we become loyal to the communities and institutions we belong to and interact with on a daily basis. Indeed, if there is no loyalty, there is no trust, commitment, or even a sense of teamwork. In the time of the Great Resignation, this is why employers have been so keen to understand their workforces and engender that sense of loyalty.
But it’s also true that staying with the same firm for too long can damage your prospects elsewhere. When hiring managers look at CVs. They typically like to see some breadth to the candidate experience, demonstrating an ability to work in different teams and environments – being an indicator of agility. Of course, that can also swing too far in the other direction with several jobs in short timeframes – ‘job-hopping’, to come back to the rabbit terminology.
So, there’s definitely a balance to be struck. By all means, stay with an employer if your prospects there are good and if that employer can offer you a variety of roles and experiences, and personal progression, within the same firm. But in most cases, we’d recommend a good stretch of loyal service (of at least three years – as long as there’s nothing else wrong and you are happy), before moving on and doing the same in a new environment with a new group of colleagues to understand how it all works under different circumstances. This also helps to mitigate the risk if your firm falls on hard times and you are laid off – you have evidence on your CV that you can adapt to a new workplace.
The story of the rabbit being aware of it’s surroundings and making use of the log to get across the river in the zodiac race story brings to mind agility, adaptation and resilience. In fact, we mentioned these in our previous blog as becoming the most sort-after character traits for 2023. As we noted there, the global pandemic demonstrated to everyone that you need a work force that is both agile and resilient and businesses are looking for employees and leaders who can weather the storm and take difficult decisions when needed. But it's also about handling uncertainty and being creative enough to be able to adapt to changing circumstances. Rich Fernandez in Harvard Business Review has some useful tips on cultivating resilience at work.
So, we hope you’ve found this post useful with some key takeaways that can help you navigate this new year as we all try to improve both ourselves and our careers. Wishing all our friends and colleagues Gong Xi Fa Cai – may you have a happy and prosperous Chinese New Year.