Have you ever changed your appearance at work to give your boss a different impression? Do you refrain from expressing your opinion because you’re afraid it won’t be accepted? Do you feel like you can’t be authentic with your colleagues and you’re constantly playing a role? Congratulations: you are covering at work.
As with Impostor Syndrome and Radical Candor, the concept of Covering might sound abstract and scary, but it’s nothing to be worried about….. or is it?
Many years later (2006), a behavioral description was introduced by Kenji Yoshino, in his book Covering: the Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights he explained the four axes where individuals cover at work:
Appearance based: when individuals alter their self-presentation, including grooming, attire, and mannerisms. For example: a black woman may straighten her hair to avoid being associated with her race.
Affiliation based: when individuals avoid behaviors that are linked to a certain identity because they fear being associated with stereotypes. For example: A man in the office might avoid talking about being his children’s primary carer because it might create a sense of lack of commitment to his work.
Advocacy based: relates to how much an individual feels the need to defend the group they belong to. For example: a person refraining from joining a Mariguana legalization protest, because he/she fears this might affect his/her career or image at work.
Association based: when individuals avoid contact with other group members. For example: a gay person might not invite her partner to a work event, to avoid being seen as “too gay”.
According to Deloitte’s 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Survey of 3,000 employees from different organizations and varied industries, 61% of the respondents admitted having done some type of covering at work. We don’t know if the other 39% were also covering while completing the covering survey.
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