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April 23, 2012

Should you "be yourself" at the office?

Maybe not if you're an asshole.

Let's take a break from the Egypt theme for a moment (it will be back tomorrow). Instead, there's a new article about a study to process!

Yes, the good old reliable Daily Mail has another article about a study. This one's not gender-related, so it may not set off people the same way those do (sorry, Dawnie).
"'Just be yourself' is advice often doled out to interview candidates - but it seems that it's just plain wrong.

People who show their 'true selves' in the work place tend to be less happy than those who 'lie'.

Honesty is often said to be the best policy - but while this may be true at home, it does not necessarily follow in the work place, say researchers."
This actually does make some sense, though I think it overstates what people really mean when they say something like "be yourself."

I mean, should this guy really be himself at the office?

(Thanks to Daily Fungo)

I don't think so.

But really, who honestly means "expose every aspect of yourself when you're at the office" when they say that?

The study shows that people are more likely to expose themselves...I mean be themselves... with their partners, followed by family and friends. And these people are happier than those who aren't. It also shows that people are less likely to "be themselves" at work, and those who do hide themselves are more happy than those who let it all out.

Probably more gainfully employed too.

Again, this misses the point and thus this appears to be a useless study (gee, where have we heard *that* before?).

To me, "be yourself" in an interview or at the office just means that you shouldn't be a completely different person than you are outside of the office, so much so that you're almost playing a character when you're at work. Don't try to pretend that you're an outgoing person when you're really not. Don't claim to be an expert at everything when you're quite clearly not an expert at anything.

That advice never means "make sure everybody knows you have a foot fetish" or "tell your boss what you really think of him and his leadership."

I think you should be yourself at the office. You just shouldn't be *all* of yourself at the office. There are things that don't need to be shared, and actions that don't need to be done.
"Dr Oliver Robinson, from the University of Greenwich in London, said: ‘You hear self-help gurus say that the secret of happiness is 'being yourself' or 'expressing your true feelings', but that doesn't seem to apply in the workplace - at least for the sample we studied.

‘So in some circumstances, it may be that a polite smile or tactfully keeping quiet may be more conducive to your well-being than saying what you actually think and feel to work colleagues.’"
This just boggles my mind. Who would ever suggest that this isn't the case? That you shouldn't "tactfully keep quiet" rather than running your mouth off about the fact you think your boss is a bozo or that your co-worker is an idiot?

Instead of being an offensive study, this just seems like a pointless one. It reinforces what we already know. People are happy expressing themselves to people who know and love them. They're not happy when they express themselves to people who would rather not know the person's sexual peculiarities or true thoughts about their job.

Bloody obvious, isn't it? (Yes, I said "bloody," since I'm sourcing a UK paper. Deal with it.)

Anybody else care to chime in?


  1. Another "study" where valuable time and money were poured into a topic that results in stultifying "discoveries"! I'm with you on the majority of the findings being obvious. Certainly, being yourself is important, but in the workplace it's just a harsh truth that filters are necessary. Unless, of course, you want seriously inappropriate moments happening all 40 hours of said work week!

    Yep, we're in agreement - this was a pointless study. I read the comments in endless *shaking my head* mode.

    - Dawnie

  2. I'm glad we're in such perfect agreement about things, Dawnie!

    I'm thinking, considering a number of my posts are about subjects like this, that I should re-name the blog "Study Hall." :)

  3. LOL on the possible name change! I'm partial to the original title, of course, but I am enjoying these romps with you and the new and varied topics, writing applications, etc. FUN, Dave me boyo! :)

  4. Yeah, I'm partial to it too. Maybe make it a sub-section or something. LOL

    I'm enjoying doing these as well. There's nothing more fun than tearing down a stupid study. :)

    Did you enjoy Egypt week? (well, three posts, anyway)


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