Identity, Work and Me


In any role, in any workplace, you are visible. We are in an arena, so to speak, and with this comes a potential exposure to complaint and criticism. I have, on occasion been the recipient of a person’s displeasure articulated in the form of a complaint, and to an extent I accept that it goes with the territory.

One Complaint has stuck, not in its entirety but a sequence of words contained within – “old, fat, d**e[1] of a boss”. Yes, this is a single line plucked from a whole convoluted narrative, of which my recall is vague, but arguably that tells its own story. I remember my response to HR was amused but curt.

In fairness, it takes a degree of linguistic dexterity to reduce my identity: age, physical appearance, sexuality, gender and status into one pejorative sentence,  each diversity strand could be singularly discussed, however identity and intersectionality is where this blog is headed.

Identity is personal, unique and complex. We have multiple identities that define our experience both in and outside of the workplace, and only by broadening the diversity and inclusion lens to recognise intersectionality can we move beyond a siloed approach to identity within the workplace.

People are neither homogenous nor static, our different life roles, priorities, needs, skills and capacity fluctuates.  We aspire to bring our “best” selves to work, but our individual identities bring with them beliefs, opinions and bias (conscious and unconscious) and frankly bias is generally not great at an interpersonal or organisational level.

The Deloitte 2019 inclusion survey[2] highlights the impact of experienced or perceived bias within the workplace and recognises an intersecting, inclusive work culture is far beyond “nice to have” in the world of work today.

There is increasing recognition of how critical a diverse and inclusive workplace is to business performance. The Deloitte survey suggests that millennials would consider leaving an employer that didn’t prioritise diversity and related values. For context, by 2025 millennials could comprise 75% of the global workforce[3]— a strong incentive for how we as leaders and organisations should translate the value of diverse and inclusive culture into actions with impact.

A more sophisticated understanding of intersectional diversity and inclusion only improves a person’s connection, confidence and enjoyment at work. Organisations that actively curate emotionally and culturally intelligent thinking in the workplace are more likely to create an allied group of colleagues. A group where people see the intersecting nature of identities as a pathway to connection and common ground, as opposed to, as described above, difference to be weaponised.

Which leads me back to the complaint …..Yes, the line was offensive (for the readers edification the fat comment irked me the most ) and yes it was totally unnecessary, but perhaps the most important question is would my response be different if it happened today?…….the answer is yes… it would be with a brave smile and simply a “please come and take a seat – this middle-aged, larger, gay, female, leader is more than ready to discuss your concerns“.