As evidenced by the identical mint shirts and sensible shoes, Big 4 life is not really the place for free-thinking individualists. Sure, you could try letting your hair fall into glorious, unshampooed disrepair and burn nag champa at your desk but unless you're the direct blood relation of someone important at the firm, you can start planning how your free-thinking ass is going to make those unemployment checks last if you dare break away from the pack.
You will recall the Deloitte U study that taught us even straight white guys don't feel comfortable letting their straight white flag fly at work:
A new study from the Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion and law professor Kenji Yoshino indicates widespread instances of "covering," the process by which individuals downplay their differences relative to mainstream perceptions, in ways costly to their productivity and sense of self at work. Three out of four (75 percent) research participants state that they have covered their identity; and, surprisingly, half (50 percent) of straight white male respondents report hiding their authentic selves on the job.
As Colin — a confirmed straight white guy — wrote about that when it first came out:
But if this study tells us anything, it's that nearly all work environments have managed to get a large portion of their people to avoid embracing the things that make them different from everyone else. What does that leave us? I guess it would result in a bunch of business casual clad drones who either talk shop or make idle chit chat throughout the day, conforming to whatever the organization has in mind for its ideal employee. In other words, a typical accounting firm.
I'm no expert, but that seems like the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you'd want.
Well, Life at Deloitte is really going off the reservation this week and suggesting you should throw all that covering out the window and just be yourself. Hopefully yourself is just like everyone else or else, well, see above.
Another one… conform to male sterotypes? No. Be genuine. Be the BEST version of yourself. #inclusion
— Life at Deloitte (@lifeatdeloitte) May 28, 2014
The "best" version of yourself might make mildly racist jokes among your equally white friends, or starts drinking at 11am on weekends, or prefers not to wear pants. None of that is acceptable in the average workplace. Only that last one is acceptable in my workplace and that's only because no one sees me but my cats when I'm at work.
You go ahead and be yourself, kid, and let us know what happens. Chances are, you'll be expressing your individuality at Starbucks, using that fancy accounting degree to froth the perfect soy mocha. But hey, at least you will true to yourself and that's all that matters.
Oh, and here's an oldie but goodie from the archive on accounting firm culture. You will note in none of the descriptions is there a mention of "free to be yourself." Act accordingly.