Why you should bring more of yourself to work

A culture which enables people to bring more of themselves to work is a much more diverse, interesting and collaborative one.

Our work persona often reflects only certain aspects of our personality. At times we can all by guilty of compartmentalising our lives into “work” and “play”, acting and presenting ourselves slightly differently at work.


Work culture can play a big part in how open we feel we can be with our colleagues. If we feel like we should fit a certain mould or be a certain way, we often won't let our true personalities shine through. We may feel obliged to keep our personal preferences under wraps and leave our passions at the door.


This results in the "work you" not fully representing the whole you, which can actually be detrimental to your career and happiness.


We may simply deem our passions or additional skills to be irrelevant in our day jobs, failing to ever voice them, and when it comes down to our lifestyle preferences we may feel vulnerable and protective about how much we expose to our colleagues and clients, fearing that we won't fit in with our peer group.


Four ways we cover up

A survey conducted by Deloitte showcased just how common it is for individuals with known stigmatised identities to purposefully keep the stigma under wraps. 61% of respondents reported “covering” (aka purposefully playing down a part of our identity) in least one of the following four areas:


Appearance – self-presentation, grooming, attire and mannerisms

Affiliation – avoiding behaviours widely associated with their identity to negate stereotypes

Advocacy – how much individuals “stick up for” their group

Association – avoiding contact with other group members


Why an inclusive work culture is essential 

People will only ever feel comfortable to bring more of themselves to work if their work culture is inclusive. An inclusive culture involves the full and successful integration of diverse people into the workplace or industry, and the consideration of diverse ideas, knowledge, perspectives, approaches and styles. 


The 5 benefits of bringing more of yourself to work

Being the real you at work has many benefits:


1. Build stronger relationships

Psychologist Amy Cuddy’s research shows that 80-90% of a first impression is based on two traits: trust and capability. When meeting someone for the first time, we subconsciously ask ourselves "Can I trust this person?" and "Can I respect this person?".


“A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve achieved trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.”


Ideally we want to be seen as both warm and competent in order to build successful relationships at work. Professionals often believe that competence is the more important factor of the two, because they want to prove that they are smart and talented enough to handle your business. But in fact, warmth, or trustworthiness, is the most important factor in how people evaluate you.


Covering key aspects of our identity can make us seem detached, evasive and blunt – making it more difficult to connect on a genuine level. People are left wondering, who is the real you? And trust levels tend to suffer as a consequence. By bringing more of ourselves to work, we can better connect with people.


2. Promote an honest culture

An open and honest culture allows people to offer up fresh, different ideas based on wider experiences and skills. Teams collaborate more effectively and strive for continual improvement, impacting how projects are executed for the better. 


3. Showcase hidden talents

Your team may have a whole host of hidden talents that you are not currently maximising on. Giving them the freedom to let their passions influence work in some way or another can be a real boost for employee engagement.


4. Feel happier and more energetic

You will shine if you’re the real you at work. Keeping up false appearances or masquerading as someone you’re naturally not can really drain your energy levels.


5. Find your fit

If a company’s values and culture doesn’t reflect yours, then you likely won’t want to stick around for too long. You shouldn’t have to change who you are and the values you believe in for 8 hours a day, it’s exhausting and demoralising. If you’re yourself from the start you’ll be able to see if the company is a good fit for you or not and identify what you’d like to look out for in your next opportunity.


Of course, there will always be certain procedures and guidelines to follow to ensure you are representing your company in a professional manner – whether this be a dress code or code of conduct. That considered, a culture which enables people to bring more of themselves to work is a much more diverse, interesting and collaborative one.