A team of researchers from Rice University, University of Houston and George Mason University found that hiding true social identity -- race and ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation or a disability -- at work often results in decreased job satisfaction and increased turnover.
"The workplace is becoming a much more diverse place, but there are still some individuals who have difficulty embracing what makes them different, especially while on the job," study co-author Michelle Hebl, a Rice professor of psychology, was quoted as saying by LiveScience.
Previous research suggests that employees who perceive discrimination or are afraid of receiving discrimination are more likely to fall into this category of individuals who feel the need to suppress or conceal their identity, Hebl said.
The study, published in the Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology journal, used an online survey to examine the behaviour of 211 working adults and measured factors such as identity, perceived discrimination, job satisfaction and turnover intentions.
"This research highlights the fact that people make decisions every day about whether it is safe to be themselves at work, and that there are real consequences of these decisions," said Eden King, a study co-author and associate professor of psychology at George Mason University.
The study also showed that suppressing one's true identity might result in exposure to other workers' discriminatory behaviour, as people are less likely to care about appearing prejudiced when they are not in the presence of an "out" group member.
On the contrary, the research finds that expression of one's true identity in a workplace can have positive impact on their interpersonal relationships.
"When individuals embrace their social identity in the workplace, other co-workers might be more sensitive to their behaviour and treatment of individuals like them," said lead study author Juan Madera, a University of Houston professor. (More)