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← Why you should bring your whole self to work

Dan Clay was worried about being dismissed as "too gay" at work, so he dialed down his personality. But then his alter ego, Carrie Dragshaw, went viral online. Here's what happened next.

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Showing Revision 4 created 02/09/2019 by Brian Greene.

  1. A leader is steady, firm,
    decisive, unwavering.
  2. Never let 'em see you sweat,
    always have an answer.
  3. [The Way We Work]

  4. My name is Dan, I'm a partner
    at a global creative consultancy.

  5. But there's another side to me:
  6. Carrie Dragshaw,
  7. the character I created on Instagram.
  8. As I thought about my double life,
    I couldn't help but wonder ...
  9. When your true self
    is a little nontraditional,
  10. how much of it can you really
    bring to the office?
  11. For some of us is authenticity off-limits?
  12. For the first 10 years of my career,

  13. I thought there was
    one way to be a leader:
  14. decisive and serious.
  15. But that's not me.
  16. So I'd put on basically
    office drag to fit the role:
  17. I'd talk in a deeper voice,
    try to hold in my hand motions.
  18. I'm someone who gets
    really excited about things,
  19. so I'd temper that.
  20. I had this little voice
    in my head, telling me,
  21. "You're too gay,
    too feminine, too flamboyant."
  22. I had one well-intentioned
    adviser who said,
  23. "Everyone knows you're gay.
    And that's great.
  24. But you don't need to beat them
    over the head with it."
  25. Cut to: me in a tutu, for Halloween 2016.

  26. I dressed up as my favorite
    TV show character, Carrie Bradshaw,
  27. thinking my friends
    would get a kick out of it.
  28. And then, things got crazy.
  29. The post went viral,
    and at first it was pure fun.
  30. I started getting these incredible
    messages from people
  31. about how happy it made them,
  32. how it encouraged them
    to be their authentic selves.
  33. And I started to think,
  34. maybe this is the time to tell that
    little voice in my head to just shut up
  35. and let myself be me.
  36. But then things got a little too big.
  37. Carrie Dragshaw was everywhere --
    In the "New York Post", "US Weekly" --

  38. and I got terrified:
  39. "What would my bosses think?
  40. Would my coworkers
    still respect me as a leader?
  41. What would my clients think?"
  42. I thought I was going to have to
    get a different job.
  43. But then, something happened,
    something small.
  44. I got a text from my boss,
    it wasn't long, it just said,
  45. "Wow, Cosmo!"
  46. With a link to an article
    that had just gone up about me.
  47. And it let me put that little,
    scared voice away
  48. and just be excited
    about this whole new world,
  49. rather than freaked out.
  50. That's the power of one person,

  51. sometimes all it takes is one ally
    to make you feel comfortable.
  52. And my coworkers
    started acting differently.
  53. They became more open,
    more playful with me,
  54. it was as if knowing this other side of me
  55. gave them permission
    to be more of themselves as well.
  56. I thought that openness and vulnerability
  57. would actually decrease
    my standing with my team.
  58. But it's done the opposite.
  59. Two years in,

  60. I never could have imagined that this
    part of me would not just be embraced,
  61. but could actually help my career.
  62. Now, I'm lucky.
  63. I work in New York City,
  64. in an office where creativity is valued
  65. and I was already pretty established
    in my career when all of this started.
  66. Maybe that's you, maybe it isn't.
  67. But all of this has taught me so much
  68. about just the importance
    of bringing your whole self to work.
  69. And it's really challenged
    my own misperceptions
  70. about what it takes to be successful.
  71. There's no one kind of way to be a leader.

  72. It's about finding your strengths
    and finding ways to amplify them.
  73. Before, if a meeting was hard,
    I'd put on my perfect leader mask.
  74. Now, I can say,
    "Gosh, that was frustrating."
  75. We can talk about challenges
    and struggles in an open way,
  76. rather than everybody pretending
    that they're fine until it's too late.
  77. Concealing an identity takes work.
  78. Think of all the wasted energy
    spent pretending,
  79. wishing you were someone different.
  80. What's most interesting to me, though,
    is that in this big study of covering,
  81. 93 percent of those
    who say they're doing it
  82. also believe their organization
    values inclusion.
  83. So clearly, our workplaces
    and all of our strange inner voices
  84. have a long way to go on acceptance.
  85. There's a big difference
    between adapting and disguising.

  86. And I think I learned that a little late.
  87. Personally, I'm taking all of this
    as a call to be the ally
  88. who, like my boss did for me,
  89. lets people know that it's OK to open up.
  90. If you're gay, or proud
    of your ethnic background,
  91. or have a disability
    or are deeply religious,
  92. see what it's like
    being your full self at work.
  93. You might be pleasantly surprised.