Self Expression in the Workplace: The Case for Edited Authenticity

By: Raleigh Mayer

Significant controversy and outcry arose when a  Google executive lost his job after airing his views on the company’s diversity policy . This sparked  public debate regarding the benefits and risks of airing personal viewpoints, and the expectation of individual responsibility in regard to protecting corporate reputation. Of course, each industry and company environment is different, but every employee is assumed to be a representative of the organization.

Despite the current emphasis on authenticity and “bringing your whole self to work”, the over-arching consideration is whether complete freedom of expression  at work — whether through speech, dress, or demeanor — is always wise.

Our country’s first amendment does protect free speech, but it doesn’t protect  speakers from the consequences of that speech, including the impact on our  reputations. So , while we should certainly be true to our ethics, morals, and core beliefs, we should  keep in mind that  communicating positions on unpopular, political, and controversial topics can make us targets at work .

Rather than total authenticity, I recommend edited authenticity. Make deliberate, thoughtful choices, aligned with your professional environment, and seek counsel from trusted colleagues, coaches, mentors, or other allies if you’re unsure of your potential impact.

Be aware that exceeding the normal  boundaries of behavior, personal appearance, and yes, individual expression, may jeopardize your career.

Remember, when we bring our whole selves to work, we are also carrying our reputations.

Want to assess, discuss, or enhance your reputation? Call or email me, and let’s talk.


Known as the “Gravitas Guru”, Mayer is currently a senior fellow at the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and executive leadership, a leadership lecturer at New York University and Barnard College, and on the leadership council of the Financial Women’s Association. 

Get your financial questions answered.

Visit the Savvy Ladies Free Financial Helpline. 

Get the Expert Advice You Deserve.