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Should employees show more personality in the workplace?

Posted by Katherine McConnell on September 4, 2013

A study released today by the Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion explores a workplace phonomenon known as "covering"--the social practice of toning down your personality on the job.  Researchers concluded that the majority of employees subjugate their "authentic selves" in the workplace, a practice that is more prevalent among minoroties 

For Deloitte's "Uncovering Talent: A New Model for Inclusion" report, coauthors Christie Smith (managing principal of Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion) and Kenji Yoshino(Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU) measured "covering" in a variety of workers in seven different industries. 

Participants were asked to report instances of "covering" in four main catagories: 

  • Appearance: avoiding aspects of self-presentation -- including grooming, attire, and mannerisms -- identified with their group
  • Affiliation: avoiding behaviors identified with their group
  • Advocacy: avoiding engagement in activities on behalf of their group
  • Association: avoiding contact with individuals in their group

With the highest  instances of covering reported by African-Americans, women and LGB employees, the study's authors posit whether workplace diversity is more ideal than practice in the American workplace. Respondents (including 50% of the straight white males surveyed) reported that covering was expected of them by superiors. 

A "cover" culture in the workplace led to a decreased sense of committment and opportunity among employees according to the study. 

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