Entity debates whether you should embrace your individuality at work.

When you hear the word “businesswoman,” what image comes to mind? A polished woman in a suit? An entrepreneur artist with a rainbow mohawk? A 20-year-old college student already dominating the business world? Whatever you imagine, the pictures have one thing in common: diversity.

Compared to past years, society is becoming more and more acceptable of men and women being their unique selves, even in the workplace. However, diversity and individuality has its limits in the office.  Should you be allowed – and proud – to be you at work? Here is everything you need to know before you pick a side.

Yes: Individuality Promotes a Healthy Environment

Besides the personal harm that forced conformity can have, Inc.com also explains that employees being themselves can benefit the company as a whole. How? As Minda Zetlin explains:

  • Clients can be turned off by “fake” employees … even if they don’t know exactly why.
  • Authenticity helps employees quickly determine whether or not a company is a good fit for them.
  • Allowing individuality improves the overall efficacy of the workplace by creating a more open and inclusive environment.
  • Each employee will also be happier and more productive when showing his or her true colors. Ever try to pretend to be someone you’re not? Then you know that it can be exhausting, so why not let employees put that energy toward work instead?

In a way, decreasing conformity might be the secret weapon a company needs for happier, healthier and more productive employees!

No: Conformity is Classy in the Office

On the other hand, office dress codes and behavior manuals have become occupational traditions for a reason. In fact, several studies have found that being “you” in the office can offer zero benefits … and even hurt workers in the long run. For instance, many people argue for individuality in the office based on the improved well-being and life satisfaction that results from confiding in friends and family.

However, a study by Dr. Oliver Robinson found that “being yourself” doesn’t seem to increase happiness for people in the workplace. In fact, sometimes a polite smile or nod might be more beneficial than expressing your true feelings – like when your boss asks if you don’t mind working late on a Friday night.

According to Inc., workplace individuality also creates more problems than solutions. For example, being able to “express yourself” forces people to ask, “Where does this candor and transparency end?” Should you really vent about how much you hate the guy who cooks fish in the office microwave every day for lunch? And would a boss’s knowledge of the brutal breakup you just went through make their yearly review more complicated?

Megan Hustad also points out that allowing endless freedom of expression could turn the workplace into a virtual family dinner – complete with the angry fights over politics or religion. Employees who have less experience in the workplace would be especially likely to commit a faux pas .. .and considering that they would probably remain in the work world the longest, who knows how long that mistake could haunt their career?

Being yourself at work, then, could instead lead to being un-employed or, at the very least, uncomfortable at work.

The Bottom Line

So should you dye your hair five different colors the night before your new job or should you shop for a traditional business suit? While the choice is yours, you might want to consider these questions from Harvard Business Review:

  • Have you seen anyone penalized for individuality? What’s the worst that could happen if you showed your “true self” in the office?
  • How would your behavior change if you were being “you” while rocking a power suit?
  • Is there a way you can test the (workplace) waters?

Depending on how you answer these questions, you’ll get an idea of whether you should say “yay” or “nay” to office individuality. However, one fact is certain regardless: you should enjoy yourself at work and find a business that aligns with your values and desired degree of workplace personality. Because #WomenThatDo always make sure that the work they’re doing is worth the sacrifices.

Edited by Casey Cromwell

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