Do you suffer from chameleonitis?

According to an article in The Guardian on Saturday, "chameleonitis occurs when an individual adapts their behaviour and attitudes to fit in with the corporate environment. In other words, when people join organisations, they quickly learn to adopt the traits associated with success, be they superficial (such as dress and language) or more significant (prioritisation of work over family and social life)."

The article goes on to suggest chameleonitis relates to "tendency of an organisation or society to reject misfits." And some organisations exert a stronger pressure than others, i.e. "fit in or shove off" (or FISO) pressure (I've heard it call fit in or f***k off before!). These are the organisations with the strongest cultures and often generate fierce loyalty in their employees.

However, what is the potential cost to individuals? The article suggests it could lead to some sort of trap, i.e. blindly adopting behavioural traits that would enable organizational achievement, but at the same pushing out important parts of non-working lives such a relationships with partners, children and friends. The result can often be catastrophic with consequences apparent at both at home and work.

To me it's a little pessimistic, i.e. there are plenty people out there who appear to be transfixed by organizational culture initiatives, yet at the same time, secretly, are serving their own ends whilst acting out what the most important people in the organization wish to see. What is more, I'm talking about high-level managers and above and not the rank and file. Everybody is else bound by having to make ends meet and HR gurus shouldn't congratulate themselves on being successful social engineers.

For more details see Career chameleons - Jerry Connor. The article is apparently based on a book called Why Work Is Weird: An Antidote to the Frustrations of Corporate Life by Jerry Connor and Lee Sears.

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