UK workers changing their personalities to get ahead

The UK is a nation of ‘workplace chameleons’ who change their identities to get ahead in their careers, according to the findings of an in-depth study.

Vodafone’s annual Working Nation survey of 2,500 UK workers revealed that 59% change some aspect of their personality at work, while 6% – the equivalent to 1.5m workers – change every­thing about themselves.

Managers are driving the trend, with 67% of senior directors admitting they expect a reasonable level of identity change in the workplace. The more senior the employees, the greater the degree of sacrifice they make to their personal values – 56% of employers agreed that the higher someone climbs within an organisation, the more personal compromises they make to their character.

Women are more likely to change their work personality than men, the survey revealed, while the most chameleon-like workers are likely to surface in media and marketing roles.

The sectors where workers feel their personal values are most aligned to where they work are education and healthcare.

Graduates feel under the greatest pressure to adopt a work ‘persona’, with 60% under the impression they must change their behaviour to gain acceptance at work.

Chris Bones, principal of Henley Management College, said that those who change their identity most were likely to be unhappiest at work.

“We accept that work and personal behaviour are different,” he said. “At your happiest, there will be a lot of convergence between work and personal identities; at your lowest, there won’t be.”

Andy Hill, director of resourcing at Vodafone UK, wasn’t surprised by the results. “We all make a switch at some point in the morning and say ‘I’m in work mode now’,” he said.

Survey findings



  • 59% of employees change their personality and identity to some extent at work
  • 6% change everything about themselves
  • 63% of women and 50% of men change their identities at work
  • 67% of directors and employers expect some degree
of identity change
  • 20% change their appearance
  • 60% of graduate trainees adopt false characteristics
to get accepted

Source: Vodafone’s Working Nation Research

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