The perils of hiding your true self at work

There is lower job satisfaction among individuals who hide their true selves in the workplace, new research has suggested. Published in the Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology journal, the study found there are many people who find it hard to embrace the factors that make them different while on the job.

Investigators from Rice University, the University of Houston and George Mason University discovered employees are less pleased with their work situation when they choose not disclose their social identity - be it their race, religion, sexual orientation or disability.

Eden King, an Associate Professor of Psychology at George Mason University, said: "People make decisions every day about whether it is safe to be themselves at work and that there are real consequences of these decisions."

Juan Madera, a Professor at the University of Houston, noted employees who feel accepted and have strong relationships with colleagues can contribute to a more positive working environment.

Dr Oliver Robinson from the University Greenwich, who himself presented a paper on authenticity at work at the Society's Annual Conference earlier this year, says:

"A recent research study I conducted with colleagues from Texas found that authenticity at work is not related to a measure of positive wellbeing, while authenticity in other social environments such as with partner and friends does predict wellbeing. This new study by Madera et al. has found that in another Texas sample, the extent to which a person's most salient group identity is manifest or suppressed at work relates to job satisfaction, showing that suppression undermines job satisfaction.

The differences between the studies may relate to the different outcome measures used (overall wellbeing vs job satisfaction), or in the kind of authenticity looked at (relational authenticity vs group authenticity). In order to understand where the discrepancy arises, more research on the effects of self-expression and authenticity in the workplace is needed.

To be authentic or not to be authentic? That is the question. As yet, we don't have a comprehensive answer."