If Latinos Can’t Be Themselves At Work, What Does That Say About Their Bosses?


It costs to be yourself—at least for Latinos in the workplace. According to a new study published by the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) entitled Latinos at Work: Unleashing the Power of Culture, most Latinos feel success comes with a hefty downpayment, which includes tailoring their appearance, body language and communication style to meet traditionally white male standards in predominantly caucasian work spaces.

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“You’re always moderating yourself,” a Latina executive shared. “[Latinos] are always tagged with the emotional thing. They’re always told, ‘Calm down. You’ve got to be more cool. Be careful with your voice, be careful with your hands.’” We’ve heard this story before–it’s one that minorities at large are familiar with–so the fact that 76 percent of participants revealed that they scale back parts of their identity in the workplace isn’t shocking.

What’s disturbing is that self-repression is rewarded, as Latinos who decide to dilute their honest selves are more likely to make strides on the job. “Those who expend a great deal of energy repressing themselves are also more likely to say that they are being promoted quickly,” researchers Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Noni Allwood and Laura Sherbin discovered. “Despite their success, this is [a] problem.”

Their findings conclude that repression undermines the ability for organizations across the nation to attract and retain Latino talent, especially because “authenticity and self-expression are of the utmost importance” to millennials making their way into the workforce.

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“When Latinos repress who they are in order to rise into management, incoming or up-and-coming Latino talent is motivated to look elsewhere for employment,” they continued. “As one Latino focus group participant said, ‘I look up, see no one like myself, and have to wonder if there is a future here for me.’”

When taking a look at the bigger picture, all roads point back to leadership. The CTI offers suggestions for fostering inclusive environments such as incorporating sponsors across race and ethnicity and supporting employee resource group efforts to celebrate Latino heritage, but according to these same survey results, 63 percent of Latinos expressed they “do not feel welcomed and included, do not feel invited to share their ideas, and/or do not feel confident their ideas are heard and valued in the workplace,” so is the solution to the problem really all that simple?

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What are your thoughts?