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I’m Calling Corporate Bullshit: Why You Should Never Bring Your Authentic Self to Work

In reality, for most of us it is impossible to bring our authentic selves to work because our authentic selves would never want to work long, demoralizing hours alienated from our families and communities to benefit a corporation.

By Paige HollowayPublished 18 days ago 6 min read
I’m Calling Corporate Bullshit: Why You Should Never Bring Your Authentic Self to Work
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In a world where the office is increasingly turning into a new altar of worship, and work is the religion, the concept of ‘bringing your whole authentic self to work’ is a siren song. This song promises a sense of belonging, purpose, and even transcendence. But as we look closer, a cunning corporate ploy emerges from the depths: the commodification of your identity. The implications of this ploy go beyond the workplace, permeating the very fabric of our society and personal lives.

The Illusion of Authenticity

The call for ‘authenticity’ in the workplace is an enticing one. After all, who wouldn’t want to be valued for their unique perspective and individuality? But, as we delve into this concept, it’s essential to question what it truly means to bring your ‘whole self’ to work. Are corporations genuinely interested in your personal struggles, your childhood memories, or your weekend hobbies? Or is their real aim to exploit your emotional labor — the unpaid, unseen efforts you invest in maintaining a harmonious workplace?

Emotional labor, a term coined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild, is the process of managing feelings and expressions as part of the work role. It involves enhancing, faking, or suppressing emotions to fulfill the emotional requirements of a job (Hochschild, 1983). In the context of bringing your ‘whole self’ to work, this could mean feeling compelled to share personal experiences, display specific emotions, or engage in social activities that align with the corporate culture.

Recent studies suggest that blurring work-life boundaries, a consequence of this ‘authenticity,’ increases workplace stress (Schieman & Young, 2019). This not only impacts employee mental health but also reduces productivity and job satisfaction. The ‘authenticity’ promised by corporations may, therefore, be an illusion, with workers paying the price.

Workplace as the New Place of Worship

The transformation of the workplace into a new place of worship is a disturbing trend that is beautifully captured in the book Carolyn Chen’s Work Pray Code (2022). According to the book, highly skilled workers are devoting more time and energy to their jobs than ever before. In the process, they are abandoning traditional religious institutions. However, it is important to question if this shift is truly an expression of ‘authenticity.’

In reality, for most of us, it is impossible to bring our authentic selves to work because our authentic selves would never want to work long, demoralizing hours alienated from our families and communities to benefit a corporation. This highlights the inherent contradiction in the corporate call for authenticity — if our authentic selves do not wish to be part of a corporation, how can we bring them to work? By demanding that workers ‘perform authenticity,’ companies may be depriving them of resources to devote to their true authentic selves.

The Corporate Faith: A Marxian Perspective

As we navigate this new landscape, it’s worth revisiting the words of philosopher Karl Marx. Marx famously said religion was the opiate of the masses. Today, companies have cunningly cut out the middleman and transformed the workplace into a new place of worship. They peddle the illusion of ‘authenticity,’ exploiting personal vulnerabilities and blurring the lines between work and life. The result? A workforce prioritizing corporate profits over personal peace of mind.

This phenomenon is not just a philosophical argument; it has real-world implications. Studies have shown that employees who perceive their workplaces as requiring high emotional labor are more likely to experience burnout (Grandey, 2000). By requiring employees to bring their ‘whole selves’ to work and perform ‘authenticity,’ corporations may be setting them up for emotional exhaustion, decreased job satisfaction, and reduced productivity. In essence, the corporate call for ‘authenticity’ may be creating a workforce running on empty.

In Defense of Authenticity

While this perspective sheds light on the possible dangers of the ‘authenticity’ mantra, it’s important to acknowledge that there might be situations or companies where this approach works well or is implemented in a healthy way. Some studies suggest that authentic expression at work can lead to increased job satisfaction and reduced stress when implemented properly (Van den Bosch & Taris, 2014).

The issue lies not in the concept of authenticity itself, but in its potential misuse as a tool for exploitation. When corporations use ‘authenticity’ as a guise to extract more emotional labor from their employees, they cross a line. It’s crucial for both employers and employees to recognize this potential pitfall and work towards creating a workplace that genuinely values and respects individuality.

Personal Space: The Final Frontier of Selfhood

In this murky landscape, where should we draw the line? The answer lies in safeguarding our personal domain. As humans, we are more than our professional identities. We have personal lives, passions, and struggles that extend beyond the workplace. Recognizing and protecting this personal domain is not just a choice; it’s a fundamental right.

In practice, this could mean setting boundaries, such as not answering work emails after a certain hour, or keeping certain topics off-limits for workplace conversations. Research shows that setting such boundaries can lead to better work-life balance, reduce burnout, and improve overall well-being (Kossek, Valcour, & Lirio, 2014).

The societal implications of this corporate con are far-reaching. The allure of a paycheck is leading us to sell our identities, leaving traditional community structures and connections in ruins. In essence, the demand for ‘authenticity’ in the workplace is causing a shift in societal values and structures. Such shifts have been associated with increased loneliness and decreased societal cohesion (Putnam, 2000). By asking us to bring our ‘whole authentic selves’ to work, corporations may be eroding the very foundations of our society.

Conclusion: Reclaiming Our Identity

The corporate call to bring our ‘whole authentic selves’ to work is a complex issue with far-reaching implications. As we navigate this landscape, it’s crucial to be aware of these implications and make informed decisions.

Remember, you are more than an employee; you are a person, with a life and identity separate from your job. It’s time to take back our individuality, to value our personal lives just as much as our work, and to never forget the worth of our ‘self’ beyond the workplace.

As we dissect the concept of authenticity, we find that it’s not just about being real or genuine. It’s about staying true to our values, our beliefs, and our identities, both in and out of the workplace. It’s about recognizing and respecting the boundary between our professional and personal lives. And most importantly, it’s about refusing to be commodified by corporate agendas.

In the end, the ‘authentic self’ that corporations are so keen to exploit is not something that can be bought or sold. It’s a deeply personal and sacred part of our identities that deserves to be protected, not paraded around the office for the sake of corporate profits.


Chen, Carolyn. (2022). Work Pray Code: When Work Becomes Religion in Silicon Valley. Princeton University Press.

Grandey, A. (2000). Emotion regulation in the workplace: A new way to conceptualize emotional labor. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 5(1), 95–110.

Hochschild, A.R. (1983). The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. University of California Press.

Kossek, E.E., Valcour, M., & Lirio, P. (2014). The sustainable workforce: Organizational strategies for promoting work-life balance and wellbeing. In: Cooper, C., & Chen, P. (Eds.), Work and Wellbeing. Wiley-Blackwell.

Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Simon & Schuster.

Schieman, S., & Young, M. (2019). Are Boundary-Spanning Technologies Associated with Work-to-Home Conflict and Distress? Evidence from Three National Surveys. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 60(1), 63–80.

Van den Bosch, R., & Taris, T. (2014). Authenticity at work: Development and validation of an individual authenticity measure at work. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(1), 1–18.


About the Creator

Paige Holloway

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Comments (19)

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  • Walter Witherspoonabout 3 hours ago

    Love this I have not finish reading it yet but I later today

  • Thoughtful, keep it up

  • Signor Wilson11 days ago

    Nice piece. Keep up the good work.

  • Jacob Damian15 days ago

    Oh yes i do enjoy your reading

  • Sera15 days ago

    I enjoyed reading this.

  • Komal15 days ago

    Great read! I am new to Vocal and looking forward to new stories from your side. You can check out my content too. Thank you!

  • Heather Zieffle 15 days ago

    Absolutely true! I've had to set boundaries over the past two years and I'm happier for it. Great read!

  • Chloe Gilholy15 days ago

    Slavery never died

  • Morgana Miller15 days ago

    This is so so so true! I hope I see more of this conversation being had, although my current plan is to never return to the corporate world ever again lol. But, the last company I worked for used “Traction” style of meeting, and every meeting started with a segue where everyone gave their “personal” and “professional” best for the week—it was especially emotionally taxing when I was going through a serious depression, and my authentic “personal best” was that I got five minutes of sunshine, or managed to both wash and put away my laundry that week. It was so draining to have this professional persona, and to then be required to create a fake personal life as well.

  • Marc Peraino15 days ago

    This piece is so critical for this day and age! Thank you for writing this. Corporations have created an undeniably abusive environment in so many workplaces, and they continue to cross boundaries they have no right to cross.

  • This article made me realize I need more sociological theory on Vocal. Took me back to many Sociology classes in college. Cheers

  • Heather N King16 days ago

    Truer words were never spoken. It’s truly sad how brainwashed some people have become to put work before everything else in their lives including health and family.

  • J. S. Wade16 days ago

    Intriguing and extremely well written essay. On target. Congratulations 🥇

  • Caroline Jane16 days ago

    Interesting essay! Congratulations on the top story.

  • Sage writes16 days ago

    Great body of words

  • JBaz16 days ago

    You said a lot.

  • Dana Crandell16 days ago

    Well "spoken". It's interesting that after 25+ years of self-employment, this still applies. In fact, I learned long ago that I'm the most demanding boss I've ever had. That line blurs far too easily.

  • Leslie Writes16 days ago


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