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Wednesday, 22nd November 2017
 

IDENTITY STRESS

 A MAJORITY OF WORKERS FEEL THEY HAVE TO LEAVE BEHIND THEIR VALUES AND IDENTITY WHEN THEY TURN UP FOR WORK!

This is a summary from Vodafone of the research:

Vodafone UK today warns that in a time when businesses are increasing their commitment to helping staff achieve a better balance between work and home life, the intended benefits are being undermined by 'identity stress'.

According to Vodafone UK's latest Working Nation report, a UK-wide study into identity in the workplace, workers are routinely changing their identity when they clock on. This tendency towards 'Jekyll & Hyde' behaviour is having a damaging impact on careers and social lives.

The survey of over 2500 workers, employers and entrepreneurs found that 58% of people change their personality and identity to fit in at work.

More worryingly, there is a hardcore of 1.5 million employees (6%) who feel compelled to change their identity completely. These 'identity-stressed' workers are three times more likely to work for companies that oppose their own values and twice as likely to lie to succeed and let colleagues take the blame for their mistakes. They are also twice as likely to be 'very dissatisfied' at work.

This conflict of values is not confined only to the identity stressed. Around 16 million (64%) employees don't believe in what their company stands for and 15 million (58%) change something about themselves to adapt.

As a consequence, a number of damaging behaviours are emerging in the workplace:

5 million (20%) change their appearance significantly, 3.5 million (14%) have modified their accent, 1.5 million (6%) have concealed their religious identity, while 1 in 50 hide their true sexual orientation
29% of workers are less true to themselves and less open at work
Almost 1 in 3 workers (30%) feel dissatisfied at work and almost 20% are looking to move jobs
7% of employees would lie and 11% would be very ruthless in order to succeed at work, with men twice as likely than women to let colleagues take the blame for their mistakes, set up rivals for a fall or reject their own personal values to get ahead
1 in 10 employees say they are less honest in the workplace than outside it
Almost 1 in 5 employers (18%) have interviewed candidates who have assumed a false identity to help improve their suitability.
These ill effects are carried over into the home - the identity-stressed are three times more likely to be 'very dissatisfied' in their life outside work and are more worried about the impact of work on their confidence, sleep quality, social life and self-esteem.

This negative behaviour not only affects morale - it can also impact productivity.

Mark Bond for Vodafone UK, said: 'We are acutely aware that getting the right balance between work and home life is not just about how much time people spend in or out the office. It's also about who you are when you come to work. One of the core beliefs in our business is that the individual employee has the opportunity to make the biggest difference to our customers and to the success of our business. Consequently we aim to ensure our employees are actively engaged with our business for the benefit of them as individuals, our customers and the business as a whole.'

Evidence in the Working Nation report suggests that at least some of the pressure to change is coming from UK bosses. Vodafone UK surveyed 215 employers for the report, revealing that 67% of senior employers expect some level of 'identity change' from their workforce, while 1 in 10 fully expect employees to change their personality inside work in order to fit in with the organization - this despite the fact that 88% also agreed that the retention of 'real identity' has never been more important.

The apparent pressure from the top is borne out by the views of workers surveyed. 1 in 5 cited explicit management encouragement to change their identity. However workers' own ambition and fear is also a factor. 11 million (b

Vodafone UK today warns that in a time when businesses are increasing their commitment to helping staff achieve a better balance between work and home life, the intended benefits are being undermined by 'identity stress'.

According to Vodafone UK's latest Working Nation report, a UK-wide study into identity in the workplace, workers are routinely changing their identity when they clock on. This tendency towards 'Jekyll & Hyde' behaviour is having a damaging impact on careers and social lives.

The survey of over 2500 workers, employers and entrepreneurs found that 58% of people change their personality and identity to fit in at work.

More worryingly, there is a hardcore of 1.5 million employees (6%) who feel compelled to change their identity completely.  These 'identity-stressed' workers are three times more likely to work for companies that oppose their own values and twice as likely to lie to succeed and let colleagues take the blame for their mistakes.  They are also twice as likely to be 'very dissatisfied' at work.

This conflict of values is not confined only to the identity stressed. Around 16 million (64%) employees don't believe in what their company stands for and 15 million (58%) change something about themselves to adapt.

As a consequence, a number of damaging behaviours are emerging in the workplace:

 

  • 5 million (20%) change their appearance significantly, 3.5 million (14%) have modified their accent, 1.5 million (6%) have concealed their religious identity, while 1 in 50 hide their true sexual orientation
  • 29% of workers are less true to themselves and less open at work
  • Almost 1 in 3 workers (30%) feel dissatisfied at work and almost 20% are looking to move jobs
  • 7% of employees would lie and 11% would be very ruthless in order to succeed at work, with men twice as likely than women to let colleagues take the blame for their mistakes, set up rivals for a fall or reject their own personal values to get ahead
  • 1 in 10 employees say they are less honest in the workplace than outside it
  • Almost 1 in 5 employers (18%) have interviewed candidates who have assumed a false identity to help improve their suitability.

These ill effects are carried over into the home - the identity-stressed are three times more likely to be 'very dissatisfied' in their life outside work and are more worried about the impact of work on their confidence, sleep quality, social life and self-esteem.

This negative behaviour not only affects morale - it can also impact productivity.

Mark Bond for Vodafone UK, said: 'We are acutely aware that getting the right balance between work and home life is not just about how much time people spend in or out the office. It’s also about who you are when you come to work. One of the core beliefs in our business is that the individual employee has the opportunity to make the biggest difference to our customers and to the success of our business. Consequently we aim to ensure our employees are actively engaged with our business for the benefit of them as individuals, our customers and the business as a whole.'

Evidence in the Working Nation report suggests that at least some of the pressure to change is coming from UK bosses. Vodafone UK surveyed 215 employers for the report, revealing that 67% of senior employers expect some level of 'identity change' from their workforce, while 1 in 10 fully expect employees to change their personality inside work in order to fit in with the organization - this despite the fact that 88% also agreed that the retention of 'real identity' has never been more important.

The apparent pressure from the top is borne out by the views of workers surveyed. 1 in 5 cited explicit management encouragement to change their identity. However workers’ own ambition and fear is also a factor. 11 million (44%) said they adopt false values and characteristics to 'gain acceptance' at work and just over 8 million (33%) do it to get promoted or safeguard against job loss. 

The success of a company can have an impact too. A third (32%) of small businesses in their first year of business have found that market forces have push them to adopt a more mainstream corporate image. 

The report is a wake-up call for businesses that ignore the fact that their people are their greatest competitive asset.  Successful employers and the most profitable businesses of the future will be those that make sure their company values match up to those of their workforce in every process, from recruitment, through to performance management through to the final exit interview.

Cary Cooper, Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University Management School, said: 'The bad news coming from the Vodafone research is that workers feel under huge pressure to alter their behaviour at work and to act in certain, predefined ways.  The good news is that while employers expect some level of conformity they also say they celebrate and encourage individuality and want greater openness and honesty in the workplace.'

So what needs to be done to close this expectation gap?  Professor Cary Cooper offers the following advice:

  • Make sure senior management walk the talk
  • Get away from the blame culture
  • Manage people by rewards and praise not fault finding and negative feedback
  • Celebrate individual and group success in developing new ideas and communicate them
  • Don’t set unachievable performance targets or unrealistic goal

These findings are very damning and prove that the lack of ethnic diversity is a component of identity stress and the strong attempt by leaders and senior managers to force people to 'fit in' in the way that they define the organisation. It cannot lead to a motivated and productive workforce. The full report can be downloaded here

Article added on 23rd December 2009 at 3:57pm

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