Covering: Two-thirds of people hide their personality for interviews and a third have had their accent mocked at work

  • Over half (52%) of people think we should change our appearance in order to fit in at work
  • Two-thirds (62%) hide their personality during a job interview
  • A third (36%) of those with an accent have had it mocked at work
  • Almost half (45%) admit they stop friends or family meeting colleagues because they worry their ‘true self’ will be uncovered
  • Covering is the act of hiding elements of our authentic selves in an effort to fit in
  • Discover more about covering at work here:

OCTOBER 2018 – LONDON, UK – New research has today revealed the extent to which people cover their true selves at work in a bid to earn acceptance among their colleagues.

According to a survey of 4,127 people across the country, commissioned by leading job board totaljobs, the majority (52%) think people should change their personality for work. In fact, the research has found that employees start to cover from the moment they first meet their potential new employers, with two-thirds (62%) admitting they change their personality for an interview. In fact, it is only after passing probation that this number drops dramatically to only a quarter (25%) admitting to still changing their personality at work.

This act of covering can even continue beyond traditional working hours, with the majority (51%) of people saying they put their guard back up and hide their real personality at work social events. Indeed, almost half (45%) of people admit they stop any circumstance where their friends or family could meet their colleagues, in order to keep work and personal lives separate.

Changing how we look at work

The research has discovered that it is not only personality that employees feel should be changed at work, with the majority (52%) believing people should also change their appearance. While this is often due to the nature of the job (45%), there are also other reasons why people feel the need to cover their true appearance.

Certainly, people can often make changes because they feel inclined to meet the expectations of their work environment and their colleagues. 1 in 7 (14%) choose to change their appearance because they believe their typical look doesn’t fit in with the style of the company, while 1 in 8 (13%) believe they wouldn’t make a good impression. The research indicates that those who don’t fit in could receive unfair treatment from their colleagues, with 1 in 20 (6%) changing their appearance due to being discriminated against.

This consciousness about appearance and fitting in extends to tattoos, with as many as 42% of people with tattoos admitting they’re worried about colleagues seeing them. This is because 60% of employees believe it is harder for those with tattoos to get a job, almost half (46%) think it is harder to get promoted, and 42% consider it harder to be taken seriously. 

Changing how we speak at work

Remarkably, the research has also discovered that employees change how they speak at work, with almost half (45%) believing it is normal to sound different. This is perhaps explained by how prevalent it is for employees to receive unwanted comments from their colleagues. Most shockingly, 13% of people admitted to thinking less of someone or mocking someone at work due to their accent.

Work is the place you’re most likely to have your accent made fun of, with colleagues (36%) more likely to mock how people speak than friends (35%), or at school (17%) or university (11%). It unfortunately makes sense, then, that work (12%) is where people are most likely to feel ashamed of their accent.

The research has discovered that a third (37%) of people admit they have softened their accent during an interview. In fact, people are twice as likely to soften their accent for an interview than a date (18%). Nevertheless, job interviews were shown to be the safest spaces for those with accent, with only 1 in 20 (5%) had their accent mocked in this situation.

What does this tell us?

While covering is inhibiting people fully expressing themselves at work, the research has discovered it can give them a sense of confidence and control in portraying a version of themselves they are comfortable with. Indeed, almost half feel comfortable (46%) or confident (43%) changing their personality for work.  In contrast, 3 out of 10 (28%) admit they find it stressful, a tenth (11%) confess they feel exposed and 7% feel ashamed they hide their true self.

Surprisingly, whether a company embraces inclusivity doesn’t impact covering in the workplace. While 52% of those who work in an inclusive organisation embrace covering, this is the same for those who claim their organisation isn’t inclusive.

Martin Talbot, Group Marketing Director, at totaljobs, said: “Jobs often come with an expectation of appearance and conduct that, as revealed by the research, people are on the whole accepting of.

However, where possible, it is important for companies to make employees feel comfortable expressing themselves and bringing their individuality to the workplace. Studies have shown that strong company cultures have a major positive impact when it comes to attracting and retaining talent, something that is especially important when it comes to allowing employees to comfortably express themselves.”

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About totaljobs:

Formed in 1999, Totaljobs is one of UK’s leading job boards, attracting 14 million visits and nearly 4 million applications from qualified jobseekers every month. 120,000 new candidates register with us each month who have an average of 190,000 jobs to choose from, posted by thousands of employers.

In May 2018, totaljobs partnered with Jobsite to become the UK’s largest hiring platform offering employers the opportunity to advertise vacancies across both platforms from one system, and access to almost half of the UK working population.

Totaljobs and Jobsite are part of the StepStone Group, one of the world’s leading e-recruitment businesses. With a head office in London and offices in Birmingham, Havant, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and Glasgow, StepStone in the UK comprises totaljobs and Jobsite plus nine additional job boards. These include:, CatererGlobal, CWJobs, Milkround, CityJobs, RetailChoice, CareerStructure, JustEngineers and emedcareers. Together these brands provide access to 17.6 million searchable candidate profiles.

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