Should You Draw the Line With Employees’ Individuality?

A reader question:

Some of my employees have asked about bringing their “authentic self” to the workplace. I want to encourage individuality and the good things that come with that, but how can I still make it clear that they need to behave appropriately at work?

To read my answer, click here: Should You Draw the Line With Employees’ Individuality?

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7 thoughts on “Should You Draw the Line With Employees’ Individuality?

  1. The first sentence is crucial. It’s essential to understand exactly what is meant by bringing ones authentic self to work. If your authentic self is nudist, sorry. If it’s transgender, for example, on the other hand, yes, people shouldn’t have to hide their real identity at work.

    1. I think the concept of “being able to bring your authentic self” is becoming the next “woke” or even “hostile work environment” – something born of activism by marginalized groups that gets co-opted and then completely bastardized by the mainstream.

  2. If I brought out my authentic self at work, I’d terrify my boss and co-workers.

    1. Very much this. My collection of skulls and bones–technically termed my comparison collection, something I actually use for work–has my coworkers disturbed enough. If I openly discussed my religion, some of my hobbies, some of my family members, etc a lot of them would stop speaking to me!

      I prefer the advice from “The Art of Manliness” website (it’s actually a lot better than it sounds, focusing on positive masculinity): be artificial. Not fake, necessarily, but rather act the way you ought to act, even if that’s counter to your nature. I know that certain aspects of my personality make people uncomfortable, and they’re completely irrelevant to the task at hand, so they’re not worth bringing up. The advice goes a bit deeper, though. When people speak of authenticity they usually think of it as things they do. TAM points out–and I fully agree here–that our taboos are as much a part of our selves as our actions. We tend to view such limitations as negatives in our culture, but they’re a part of us and we should embrace that. I don’t do certain things at work, even if I do them at home–and that’s because those taboos are part of who I am.

  3. Also, if your authentic self is a grump, then maybe you should second guess taking the front desk position of a busy Human Resources Office…

  4. The response is a good reminder, but it is not at all what I think of when I think of “authentic self.”

    Examples might be code switching your speech, wearing nail polish or make up when it is not behavior related to their assumed or presenting gender norm, not having to act more or less [insert any personality trait here] because of their race, gender, religion, etc.

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