New Deloitte Study Finds That Employees Are ‘Covering’ Their True Identities In The Workplace More Than Ever

Photo of female Worker having headache. Dark-haired office worker having headache after been fired from work for no reason.

Code-switching is at an all-time high.

A new report from Deloitte’s DEI Institute™ in partnership with the Meltzer Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at NYU School of Law its 2023 study, “Uncovering Culture,” that revealed many U.S. workers shift their identifies to assimilate into mainstream work cultures to maintain and/or advance their careers. The findings show 60% of respondents have attested to covering at work within the last 12 months. The report states that the workers cover to avoid negative stereotypes, and be perceived as competent.

As previously reported by ESSENCE, code-switching is defined by Brittanica as a process of shifting from one language to another, code-switching for Black Americans existing in white spaces don’t necessarily mean shifting from English to another country’s dialect. We are often forced to shift much of our cultural identity to one that’s more palatable by the white majority.

“Covering can be defined along four axes: appearance-based (modifying aspects of self-presentation to fit in); affiliation-based (minimizing behaviors widely associated with one’s identity); advocacy-based (not defending or promoting the interests of one’s group); and association-based (avoiding contact with other group members),” the report writes. “The latest research confirms that much like in 2013, workers continue to cover in these ways at work, along a broad spectrum of identities, such as age, religion, race/ethnicity and mental health status.”

Studies have suggested that code-switching can cause immense negative emotional impact over time. “When highly intense emotions happen, especially negative ones, the brain’s cognitive control — or your brain’s ability to process information that guides your behavior — is reduced,” a PsychCentral report states.

It adds: “When code-switching, we put up protective barriers because we don’t want to reveal certain parts of ourselves. When you find yourself in an emotionally heightened situation, those barriers may be lowered.”

“Organizations can start taking actions now to address covering at work,” the Deloitte’s DEI Institute™ report states. “Recommended actions for leaders to foster a culture of uncovering at work include diagnosing organizational covering demands; sharing their stories; and engaging in active allyship.”

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