How hiding your true personality at work is bad for your health and happiness.
Most of us spend more hours working than we do anything else. So, naturally, we'd want the time we spend at work to be as good as it could be, right? Well, we've all been stuck in not-so-great jobs, but what if you couldn't be yourself at your workplace? What if you felt like you had to actually hide your race or ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, or a disability? It would be pretty hard to be your best, right?
That's the conclusion of a recent study published in the journal Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology that surveyed 211 working adults in an online survey that measured factors such as identity, perceived discrimination, job satisfaction, and turnover intentions. Researchers found that hiding your true social identity at work can actually result in decreased job satisfaction and increased turnover, which can hinder health, happiness, and financial stability.
So exactly how do you go about being more of yourself in the workplace to avoid these negative consequences? Donna M. Lubrano, adjunct faculty of marketing and management at Fisher College says that if you can, choose to work for an organization that has a policy and culture that supports a diverse work environment. But whether or not you are working in an open environment, you must be comfortable with who you are.
"If you feel you are different or afraid you won't be accepted, then that belief system will translate into behavior that reinforces your beliefs," Lubrano says. "Make sure your 'perceptions of discrimination' or 'fear of discrimination' are founded appreciable behaviors by others around you...not just your own fear getting the best of you."
Dr. Karen Hylen, primary therapist at Summit Malibu echoes that sentiment and recommends focusing first and foremost on your job.
"Focus on your job instead of on how others perceive you!" Hylen says. "By focusing your energy on performing your daily tasks as best as possible instead of on garnering the approval of others, you will allow your true personality to peek its head out, eventually allowing you to be yourself naturally."
She also recommends being as open and honest as possible—and laughing at yourself often.
"If you have a social faux pas, just laugh it off rather than becoming overly defensive about your actions," Hylen says. "This will keep you from putting up a front to others, as well as keep both sides from dwelling on the situation. Pretty soon, everyone will laugh at your quirks, and you won't have to feel awkward about them!"
Lubrano agrees that laughter can go a long way in strengthening workplace acceptance. It's all about finding common bonds with your co-workers, Lubrano says.
"Children, caring for elderly parents, interest in travel: The more human and real you become the more difficult it is to find ways to make you an outsider," she says. "Food and laughter are the equalizers. Everyone loves to eat and loves to laugh."
Are you your true self at work? Could you follow these tips to be more of yourself at the workplace? Tell us about it!