HR Strange But True!
January 31, 2008

The United Kingdom is a hotbed of "office chameleons," with two-thirds of workers adopting a different personality for the workplace and with youngest workers leading the way, according to a recent survey.

The survey of workers in the UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands found that half of all respondents admitted to donning a different personality for the office than they use at home, according to OPP, an international business psychology consultancy.

The differences from country to country were striking, with 64% of UK respondents saying they behave differently at work, followed closely by Ireland (61%) and Germany (58%). But in Belgium, only 39% of workers said they behave differently at work and home, and in the Netherlands the figure was just 36%.

As employees grow older and attain greater seniority they apparently feel less of a need to modify their behavior, while impressionable young employees seem to experience the most short-term pressure to conform. In the countries surveyed, three in five of those under 30 admitted to behaving differently at work than at home (62%). The proportion drops steadily through the age ranges until, by the time workers reach 60 and above, just 30% said they are still not using their real personality in the workplace.

The survey also found that workers reinvent themselves from one job to the next. More than a third of the workers surveyed (37%) said they had adopted a different personality at their current job to that displayed at their previous employer. Again, this trait was more prevalent among younger workers, with 44% of those in their twenties admitting to changing personality as they switched organizations.

Beware the Dissembling HR Manager

The workers most likely to project a different personality at work were employees in the HR and training fields (59%), professional services (56%), and healthcare and social services (55%). Conversely, those working in manufacturing industry or transport were less likely to do so (47% of respondents), suggesting the office environment creates the most pressure to manage others' impressions, according to OPP.

One-third of the surveyed employees (33%) said they adapted their personality at the job interview stage to try to "fit in" with what they saw as the company culture. That figure rose to 41% among workers in their twenties. The UK and Ireland were the hotspots of European interviewee persona change with 45% and 49%, respectively. "But the interviewee is only half of the recruitment interview process. And the survey found that interviewers are equally quick to adopt a false persona," the OPP report stated. "In fact, four out of ten employees (39%) received an impression of their line manager or boss's personality during the interview process that is different from what they now perceive that personality to be."

Over a third of the surveyed workers (35%) said that changing their personality from one environment to another was tiring. Four in ten women (39%), as opposed to three in ten men (32%), felt that weariness.

Source: OPP

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