Are you covering at work?
Covering is downplaying, hiding or filtering parts of ourselves at work, with different social groups, at school or with family. Through my work and research done by organizations including Deloitte and UCLA Williams Institute, women of color, straight white men, LGBTQ+ folx and people with disabilities, among others, have all named ways in which they’ve covered parts of themselves and their identities.
Over a decade ago, as a young queer professional, I covered.
Back then, I didn’t have the words for it, but that’s what it was. Facets of it are also called code-switching. To cover, my younger professional self wore button ups and wingtips rather than a dress and heels, less makeup, and kept my hair short. It was done out of self-protection, and because of the explicit and implicit codes of conduct and cultural norms that were in place about what it meant to be a “professional” and a “man.”
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I came to terms with the impact covering had on me, including my health, relationships, and ability to lead, be creative and innovate. It also triggered coping mechanisms like drinking copious amounts of alcohol and brought me close to the edge of burnout. That’s when my journey to uncover and change how I showed up really began as a queer nonprofit leader and entrepreneur.
I created my “Uncovering Your Value” keynote and LinkedIn newsletter to delve into what covering is, its impact on the individual and the company, and how it can trigger coping strategies and lead to burnout. Through personal narratives, media and research I look at how these elements intersected with COVID-19 and the socio-political environment over the past few years, touching every sector. Why? Because now is the time to consider the opportunity we have to uncover, reimagine how we work, and cultivate a positive sense of belonging by developing trusting cultures that embrace and value employees’ lived experiences.
Josh Miller, MBA (he/him)
Owner, Josh Miller Ventures | Co-founder + CEO, IDEAS xLab
Learn more at joshmiller.ventures