Being Personal Isn't Professional

"Feelings? Look mate, you know who's got a lot of feelings? Blokes who bludgeon their wives to death with a golf trophy. Professionals have standards."
The Sniper, Team Fortress 2

There's someone you know at work. They're professional and polite, always making a good first impression. They're very good at what they do, but take everything way too seriously. They're quick to introduce themselves to everyone in the workplace, but don't bother to find out any more than their co-workers' names and strengths within the workplace. It's not uncommon for people to start wondering if they are a robot due to their lack of extreme emotion and aloofness. If a situation arises, they will usually help out the one in trouble, then later brush it off saying Think Nothing of It.

One day, you happen to run into them outside of working hours. Not only do they greet you with a large smile on their face, but they are actually quite lighthearted and talkative. Turns out, they are rather social, but not at work. They might even be wild, flirty and hate the persona that they're forced to show at work, especially if they're a Stern Teacher or Drill Sergeant Nasty. However, once they return to the workplace, they've returned to being as social and friendly as a rock.

Truth in Television, since being too emotional in certain jobs may prove dangerous or at least detrimental to how well you do the job.

Compare Sugar and Ice Personality, which occurs when a character is cold to the world at large and only exhibits their softer side to certain other characters.

A sub-trope of Work Hard, Play Hard, where a character is a hard worker and a huge party goer, but doesn't always draw a strict line in between.

The Consummate Professional is very much likely to subscribe to this trope, as is the aforementioned Sugar and Ice Personality. It may also be a response to a Contractual Purity clause. Compare Hates Small Talk and Naughty by Night. The Punch Clock Villain is an extreme example, where the "work" persona isn't just stern and businesslike, but evil.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ebisu from Ebisu-san and Hotei-san is like this as she tells Hotei that she doesn't have time for personal conversations at work because Ebisu's firmly committed to not putting in any overtime.
  • In ...Virgin Love, Daigo purposefully keeps his work persona and his true personality separate. He's generous and easy-going by nature, but as a young CEO has to be professional and commanding at all times in the workplace to ensure the company's survival.

  • Mr. Sturgeon from Gordon Korman's Macdonald Hall is like this, he is so strict that he's known for his 'fishy stare', yet funny and good-humoured to his wife.
  • John Wemmick from Great Expectations is like this. At the office of Mr. Jaggers he's a humorless, slightly unpleasant man who is devoted to the acquisition of 'portable property', while at home he is a joyful, caring, and generally amiable fellow who lived with his ancient father in a whimsical house built like a tiny castle. He's very insistent that his personal and professional lives don't cross.
  • Much like the Marines example in the Real Life section, Zelik Leybenzon in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Relaunch novel Q & A is a Drill Sergeant Nasty to his men, and kind of a rude dick to Geordi while on-duty, but is perfectly friendly and sociable when everyone's hanging out in Ten Forward.
  • On the Disc, Carrot Ironfoundersson. When the love of his life, Angua, is in an extremely dire situation, he carries on with a practically British Stiff Upper Lip; because getting emotional about it won't help her, whereas carrying out his duties might. When he has an admitted bad guy at a disadvantage, he won't hold back out of nobility, or honour, or even the sense of justice that might have stopped, say, Sam Vimes; he will kill them stone dead so that they won't hurt anyone else. Taken to extremes when he puts himself at risk of freezing to death because maybe that news will get back to Angua, who maybe will come and save him, enabling them to team up. Sam Vimes, interestingly, is actually a subversion; he holds to his duty with a monomaniacal devotion, but nothing is more important to him than his family (which includes his brother and sister officers).
    • Carrot sums this trope up best at the climax of Men at Arms when he's trying to talk Vimes out of killing Dr Cruces in cold blood with the Gonne.
    Vimes: He killed Angua. Doesn't that mean anything to you?
    Carrot: Yes sir. But personal isn't the same as important.
  • Starship Troopers Has a couple examples.
    • Fleet Sergeant Ho, the recruiting sergeant that signs Rico up, is cold and condescending towards him (though much more warm with his female friend Carmen). He's also missing both legs and one arm, and does nothing to hide it. When Johnny runs into him later, he's wearing convincing powered prosthetics, and shakes Johnny's hand and congratulates him when he finds out Johnny's in the Mobile Infantry. The missing limbs are explained as a "horror show" designed to scare off the squeamish.
    • Col. Dubois, Johnny's History and Moral Philosophy teacher in High School. He treats everyone in the class as being unworthy of joining the Military, and is openly insulting to students who don't share his views. While Johnny is in Boot Camp, he gets a letter from Dubois, which reads like a proud uncle praising a favorite nephew. Johnny has to check the envelope to make sure it was addressed to him.
    • Sergeant Zim is an interesting case. He starts off as a Mark I Drill Sergeant Nasty, but he becomes more approachable as the wheat is separated from the chaff in Johnny's Boot Regiment. Despite that, he remains stolid and professional. Even when he's the senior sergeant during Johnny's practice run as an Officer-in-Training, he remains completely professional. The only hint Johnny gets at a human side is a conversation he overhears where Zim admits to liking at least one of the recruits.

     Live-Action Television 
  • Spoofed mercilessly with the character Wayne Jarvis in Arrested Development.
  • Michael Weston of Burn Notice can be like this.
  • Dr. Clark Edison on Bones. He really doesn't want to be involved in anybody's personal life and is less than pleased with all the interpersonal non-business talk.
    • Until he opened up. His new problem? Oversharing.
  • Inspector Fowler at times on The Thin Blue Line, in one instance pointing out that, as his girlfriend wanted his advice partly as her commanding officer and partly as her boyfriend, he will have to give her one opinion now and one at lunch, as he is not being paid to be her boyfriend.
  • Inverted on Royal Pains with Dr. Jeremiah, who is socially awkward and generally is not emotional in everyday life but is encouraged to be personable for the sake of the clients.
  • Gorden Ramsey, bombastic chef of Hell's Kitchen, appears to be quite friendly and personable on the reward trips winners on his show go on. But, as soon as he is back in the kitchen and they screw up....
  • The Cosby Show: Theo is completely flabbergasted to see that his hyper-strict, no-nonsense math teacher is an attractive, fun-loving, and Happily Married woman.
  • Inverted in an ER storyline which had Mark failing to support Susan when she was blamed for the death of a patient and hauled before the review board, and subsequently failing to understand why she was so hurt and angry that she refused to speak to him for weeks afterwards. When he tries to reconcile with her, he essentially cites this trope, saying that she can't expect him to side with her because of their friendship.
  • The second series of DCI Banks introduces DI Helen Morton, replacing DS Annie Cabbot during the latter's maternity leave. At first, DI Morton feels no need or desire to share anything about her personal life with her colleagues, but she is eventually convinced to seek that human connection.
  • Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul embodies this trope. He's an incredibly efficient assassin and enforcer for Gus Fring's drug enterprise, who stops at nothing to carry out his job, but he hardly ever holds any ill will towards his targets, and is a pretty decent guy when he's not on the job. Even better, unlike Walt, he's managed to keep his professional and personal lives separate.

     Newspaper Comics 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin is surprised to hear his mom ran into his teacher at the store during the summer. When asked why he said he had always imagined that teachers spent the summer sleeping in coffins.

     Video Games 
  • The Sniper from Team Fortress 2 insists that his feelings don't enter into his job — there's no room for them. "Professionals have standards."
  • Nel from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. She goes on and on like a broken record about her mission. But the second part of this is true too, as when Tynaeve and her other friend are kidnapped, she sneaks off in the night to save them.
    • Though its worth nothing she's only like this initially when she barely knows the Protagonist, and doesn't totally trust him. After the first dungeon or two she opens up from that point on, even when on a "mission".
  • Inverted in Pokemon X and Y. The protagonist can catch one of the Pokémon Center nurses outside their usual job, but she just wants to enjoy watching Pokémon battles on her day off, insists that she isn't there to care for your Pokémon, and tells the protagonist to just go over to the nearest Pokémon Center.

     Web Comics 
  • In Elf Blood, Council Captain SKO behaves this way when on-duty, even going so far as to make the childhood friends under her command address her as Madam Controller when on-mission. Off-duty though, they live in the same quarters, share the same food, and SKO behaves a lot more casually to them.

     Western Animation 
  • On Recess, Ms. Finster turns out to be an old friend of Spinelli's parents. She turns out to be quite cool in the end despite her Stern to Sadist Teacher tendencies.
  • Mr. Ratburn in Arthur is shown to be this when they follow him to a carnival, where he's shown putting on a puppet show for small children and generally being nice to kids. He had previously only been seen as a harsh teacher at school. Lampshaded a little by D.W. who thought that teachers lived at school.
  • The Looney Tunes cartoons with Ralph the Wolf and Sam the Sheepdog who are friendly to each other before and after the work whistle blows and eat lunch together but are enemies during "working hours."
  • In Futurama, Leela's cryogenics boss, Ipji, observes this trope to a T — nobody he knows from work knows he is married and his wife doesn't know he has a job. "I keep my personal and professional lives separate!"
  • Subverted for humor in one episode of King of the Hill, where Enrique wants to meet Hank after work to get some personal help with some marriage problems he's having. He seems to assume that Hank is less stoic and impersonal after hours. He's really not, but Enrique still interprets his actions as such.

  • Roger Federer seems unaffected and cold on the court, but is very social and cheery off. If someone is injured, he calls or emails them to make sure they're OK.

     Real Life 
  • Real Life teachers are often like this, the mix of having to maintain discipline in the classroom and needing to be above reproach in their interactions with students (sometimes to an unreasonable degree). It relaxes a bit in high school and college, though, as the students get older and more mature.
    • One of the most world-shattering moments in a child's life is running into their teachers outside of school and discovering (they're *GASP!*) human!!
    • The truly shocking thing is that point around the middle to end of university when one might well end up being invited to have a drink with a professor or attend some other sort of social event at a professor's residence. Until that point, one's teachers' humanity is known and understood but merely theoretical; now, you're part of it.
      • The college example can happen even sooner in a small school, where class sizes may only be less than one-hundred, or half of that.
  • Security guards walk a line between being reasonably personable (even friendly) and being authoritative.
  • It's not unknown for a US Marine to run into one of their Drill Instructors once they're "out in the fleet", often while out on town, and find themselves greeted warmly, and even offered a beer or the like by someone who had once been the bane of their entire existence.
    • Many militaries in general encourage this trope, as much of a military's function revolves around a strict hierarchy based on rank and position. How much this is the case will vary from organization to organization, but in general, Fraternization between higher and lower ranks is heavily discouraged.
  • The Inversion exists in real life too; people who are less sociable may have to become chatty and friendly in order to adequately speak with customers.
  • Many offices now have "casual days" where employees can come into work dressed in more "everyday" attire that they might wear while running errands or going out shopping. Some employees may still choose to come dressed in more formal attire because they don't feel that casual dress is professional. Similarly, while most employees may have family pictures and other personal decorations in their office, some employees may not bother to decorate their cubicle at all.