Self-Expression in the Workplace: The Case for Edited Authenticity

September 14, 2017

 

Recently, significant controversy and outcry arose when a Google executive lost his job after airing his views on the company's diversity policy. This sparked public debate regarding the benefits and risks of airing personal viewpoints, and the expectation of individual responsibility in regard to protecting corporate reputation. Of course, each industry and company environment is different, but every employee is assumed to be a representative of the organization.

 

Despite the current emphasis on authenticity and  "bringing your whole self to work", the over-arching consideration is whether complete freedom of expression at work -- whether through speech, dress, or demeanor -- is always wise.

 

Our country's first amendment does protect free speech, but it doesn't protect speakers from the consequences of that speech, including the impact on our reputations. So, while we should certainly be true to our ethics, morals, and core beliefs, we should keep in mind that communicating positions on unpopular, political, and controversial topics can make us targets at work.

 

Rather than total authenticity, I recommend edited authenticity. Make deliberate, thoughtful choices, aligned with your professional environment, and seek counsel from trusted colleagues, coaches, mentors, or other allies if you're unsure of your potential impact.

 

Be aware that exceeding the normal boundaries of behavior, personal appearance, and yes, individual expression, may jeopardize your career.

 

Remember, when we bring our whole selves to work, we are also carrying our reputations.

Want to assess, discuss, or enhance your reputation? Call or email me, and let's talk.

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