Study Links Suppressing Your Identity to Job Dissatisfaction and Turnover

A new study published in "Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology" indicates that suppressing your identity at work may lead to increased job dissatisfaction and turnover. Researchers at Rice University polled 211 employed adults on topics like perceived discrimination, identity, job satisfaction and their intention to leave their job. Why is self-expression so important?

For starters, employees simply feel happier when they're able to celebrate their uniqueness, whether it be through their religion, age, race and ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation. "When individuals embrace their social identity in the workplace, other coworkers might be more sensitive to their behavior and treatment of individuals like them," said Juan Madera, the lead author of the study and a professor at the University of Houston. "And quite often, what's good for the worker is good for the workplace. The employees feel accepted and have better experiences with coworkers, which creates a positive working environment that may lead to decreased turnover and greater profits."

Conversely, employees who must suppress their identity might actually be exposed to more of their coworkers' discriminatory attitudes than they would otherwise. Futurity notes that survey respondents were "less likely to care about appearing prejudiced when they are not in the presence of an 'out' group member."

How can the study's findings shape the modern workplace? "Individuals tell coworkers, who can act as allies and react positively, and organizations can institute protective and inclusive organizational policies," said Rice University psychology professor Michelle Hebl. "All of these measures will continue to change the landscape and diversity of our workforce."

Do you feel free to express your true identity at work? Why or why not?

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