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The Worst Benefit
Bringing your ‘authentic self’ to work is the emptiest corporate platitude. I’ve touched on this topic before, but it continues to rear its authentically ugly head.
Last week, the software company Basecamp got into trouble. They produce productivity software and the Hey World platform which powers this blog.
Author’s note: this post originally posted on Hey World!
Despite their innocuous work, they ended up in national news when CEO Jason Freid publicly shut off their ‘authenticity’ valve.
Among other things, management ceased the focus on social issues and prohibited internal political discourse. To employees unhappy with the changes, Basecamp offered a 6-month severance. One-third of their 60+ full-time staff took the offer.
Is that massive walk-out a win for the bring your ‘authentic self’ to work camp? No, it’s a big win for Basecamp.
Even Twins Throw Down
The promise of authenticity at work, such as openly expressing political opinion, is a perk that no employee can ever truly claim.
Regardless of what you’re allowed to wear, do, or say, your organization will never fully accept your ‘true self,’ whatever the heck that is, metaphysically speaking.
Deep down you know that’s true because if you learned intimate details about Larry’s Wednesday night rituals, you may refuse to accept Larry. And every company has a Larry.
So bringing your authentic ‘self’ to work is the vaporware of corporate benefits. It’ll never arrive. And if it does, it’ll look nothing like it did in the picture.
And that’s because a promise to accept you for everything you are is a promise to accept you. Full-stop. And no one can deliver that.
A group of two or more people never accepted every belief and behavior exhibited by its constituents… even twins duke it out.
What I really want from an employer, and what I believe you truly want, is a fair shake.
When Basecamp offered their workforce a 6-month cash-out, one-third of them took the offer. The missing headline? Two-thirds didn’t.
Over 40-people remained, with benefits cut and privileges' revoked. Some may have been incapable of finding a new job. And among those who took the severance, some saw the cash as enough incentive to bolt, politics aside.
Presuming those groups cancel each other out, you’re left with about two-thirds of the concerned individuals siding with management’s new policies over a quick cash windfall. How did that happen?
As I stated in an earlier post, I believe people would rather know the harsh rules rather than live among lofty promises and unwritten dictums.
We are comfort-seeking creatures. We want to know where we stand, where we can go, and how we get there safely.
When leadership states plainly how the company operates in black & white, employees who disagree with those tactics still prefer the devil they know to the ‘authentic’ one they cannot predict.
In Basecamp’s case, the percentage of their staff committed to the company’s goals grew by 150%. Basecamp won.
And if they navigate this well, they’ll never again concern themselves with this problem.
What About Rainbow Hair and Facial Tatts?
Seeking acceptance for who you are at work is a fool’s errand. You are paid not for your snowflake personality, but for your talent.
And you should be proud of the talents you possess. So what if your employer wants you to wrap up your hair, remove a few piercings, and put on a tie? Just smile, shake their hand, do as your told, and find love.
To find love, you stand out. To find acceptance, you fit in. What you need is love. And as for wanting acceptance, look for that among people worthy of the personal sacrifice required to fit in.
We spend wasteful energy defining how we work. But by fighting, we let work define us. Don't.