Deliver Your News to the World

British Businesses At Risk From Identity Stress


17 July 2006, Vodafone UK today warns that in a time when businesses are increasing their commitment to helping staff achieve a better balance between work and home life, the intended benefits are being undermined by ‘identity stress’.

According to Vodafone UK’s latest Working Nation report, a UK-wide study into identity in the workplace, workers are routinely changing their identity when they clock on. This tendency towards ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ behaviour is having a damaging impact on careers and social lives.

The survey of over 2500 workers, employers and entrepreneurs found that 58% of people change their personality and identity to fit in at work.

More worryingly, there is a hardcore of 1.5 million employees (6%) who feel compelled to change their identity completely. These ‘identity-stressed’ workers are three times more likely to work for companies that oppose their own values and twice as likely to lie to succeed and let colleagues take the blame for their mistakes. They are also twice as likely to be “very dissatisfied” at work.

This conflict of values is not confined only to the identity stressed. Around 16 million (64%) employees don’t believe in what their company stands for and 15 million (58%) change something about themselves to adapt.

As a consequence, a number of damaging behaviours are emerging in the workplace:

* 5 million (20%) change their appearance significantly, 3.5 million (14%) have modified their accent, 1.5 million (6%) have concealed their religious identity, while 1 in 50 hide their true sexual orientation

* 29% of workers are less true to themselves and less open at work

* Almost 1 in 3 workers (30%) feel dissatisfied at work and almost 20% are looking to move jobs

* 7% of employees would lie and 11% would be very ruthless in order to succeed at work, with men twice as likely than women to let colleagues take the blame for their mistakes, set up rivals for a fall or reject their own personal values to get ahead

* 1 in 10 employees say they are less honest in the workplace than outside it

* Almost 1 in 5 employers (18%) have interviewed candidates who have assumed a false identity to help improve their suitability

These ill effects are carried over into the home – the identity-stressed are three times more likely to be “very dissatisfied” in their life outside work and are more worried about the impact of work on their confidence, sleep quality, social life and self-esteem.

This negative behaviour not only affects morale - it can also impact productivity.

Mark Bond for Vodafone UK, said: “We are acutely aware that getting the right balance between work and home life is not just about how much time people spend in or out the office. It’s also about who you are when you come to work. One of the core beliefs in our business is that the individual employee has the opportunity to make the biggest difference to our customers and to the success of our business. Consequently we aim to ensure our employees are actively engaged with our business for the benefit of them as individuals, our customers and the business as a whole.”

Evidence in the Working Nation report suggests that at least some of the pressure to change is coming from UK bosses. Vodafone UK surveyed 215 employers for the report, revealing that 67% of senior employers expect some level of “identity change” from their workforce, while 1 in 10 fully expect employees to change their personality inside work in order to fit in with the organization – this despite the fact that 88% also agreed that the retention of “real identity” has never been more important.

The apparent pressure from the top is borne out by the views of workers surveyed. 1 in 5 cited explicit management encouragement to change their identity. However workers’ own ambition and fear is also a factor. 11 million (44%) said they adopt false values and characteristics to “gain acceptance” at work and just over 8 million (33%) do it to get promoted or safeguard against job loss.

The success of a company can have an impact too. A third (32%) of small businesses in their first year of business have found that market forces have push them to adopt a more mainstream corporate image.

The report is a wake-up call for businesses that ignore the fact that their people are their greatest competitive asset. Successful employers and the most profitable businesses of the future will be those that make sure their company values match up to those of their workforce in every process, from recruitment, through to performance management through to the final exit interview.

Cary Cooper, Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University Management School, said: “The bad news coming from the Vodafone research is that workers feel under huge pressure to alter their behaviour at work and to act in certain, predefined ways. The good news is that while employers expect some level of conformity they also say they celebrate and encourage individuality and want greater openness and honesty in the workplace.”

So what needs to be done to close this expectation gap? Professor Cary Cooper offers the following advice:

Make sure senior management walk the talk

Get away from the blame culture

Manage people by rewards and praise not fault finding and negative feedback

Celebrate individual and group success in developing new ideas and communicate them

Don’t set unachievable performance targets or unrealistic goals


Notes to editors

* Population figures calculated using latest labour force data (population 25 million) from the Office of National Statistics.

’Changing faces – how we adapt our identity at work’ is the fourth report in Vodafone UK’s Working Nation series examining attitudes among the British workforce.

The research took place between November 2005 and May 2006, and included several key elements:

Qualitative stage to identify the forces driving change in UK business. This consisted of in-depth interviews conducted with a think-tank of some of the UK’s leading business consultants and academics from Henley Management College, Lancaster University Management School, University College London, Newcastle Business School, Bath University School of Management and Sirota.

Survey of 215 senior employers (Institute of Directors members) using the IoD Director magazine written questionnaire.

Internet panel survey of 1,926 employees in the UK.

Internet panel survey of 310 entrepreneurs and employees in Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) and One Man Band (OMB) companies in the UK.

The full report can be downloaded from and hard copies are available by calling 0208 759 0005.

For broadcast media requests please contact Graham Barrett on 020 7253 8888 or 07879 890 079

About Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK has 16.3 million customers and is part of the world’s largest mobile community offering a wide range of voice and data communications. The company is committed to providing mobile solutions that allow both consumer and business customers to make the most of now. In addition, Vodafone connects customers across the globe with roaming agreements worldwide. It provides 3G roaming in 18 countries and offers great roaming value with Vodafone Passport. For more information, please visit


This news content was configured by WebWire editorial staff. Linking is permitted.

News Release Distribution and Press Release Distribution Services Provided by WebWire.