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Third Of UK Workers Suffer From FOOC: Fear Of Offending Colleagues 



Almost a third (32%) of British workers don’t feel like they can be their true selves at work, with 27% suffering from FOOC: a Fear of Offending Colleagues, new research reveals.  

The data, from, one of the UK’s leading jobs and careers sites helping the UK to Love Mondays, found that despite almost a third of people revealing they can’t be themselves at their workplace, the same amount admitted that they’d enjoy their job more if they were able to fully be themselves. 37% even said that it’d make them feel more relaxed, with over a fifth believing they’d get more work done if they could express themselves in an authentic way, rather than dedicating mental effort to focusing on hiding their true selves, which could have a knock-on effect on productivity. 

Regardless of this, almost one-fifth (19%) of workers said that they regularly pretend to be someone else at work by adopting a workplace persona, with almost half of all Brits (44%) saying they do this at least sometimes depending on who they talk to or what situation they’re in. One of the reasons for this is the fear of what their colleagues might think of them (22%), something women (24%) seem to worry more about than men (19%) – ​and, ​for those who identify as LGBTQ+, this rises to 29%. And maybe not so surprisingly, over one in ten admit that fear of their boss is what stops them from truly letting loose. 

The research, which quizzed Brits on their workplace worries, revealed Gen Z as the generation that, surprisingly, worry the most about what their colleagues think of them (25%), compared to workers aged 45+, who are concerned that being themselves may offend others in the workplace (31%). ​​​​Breaking this down regionally, workers in the South East are most likely to worry about what their colleagues think of them (28%) compared to only 16% of residents in the West Midlands.  

It’s perhaps no surprise to hear that the biggest worry amongst Brits is to ask a colleague a question that could be seen as too personal (31%), whilst forgetting or pronouncing someone’s name wrong came second on the list (23%). 

Top 8 workplace worries 

31% Asking a question that could be considered too personal 
23% Calling a colleague by the wrong name or pronouncing their name incorrectly 
19% Not being sensitive to religious beliefs 
19% Not being aware of or assuming their sexuality 
18% Alluding to their work not being good enough 
18% Voicing my opinion on their personal life, such as breakups or illnesses 
16% Being too open about my own personal issues, such as breakups or illnesses 
12% Forgetting a colleague’s birthday 

Despite these worries, one in five admit that the ability to be themselves at work helps them love their job more, with almost half of the people (45%) saying that a good relationship with their colleagues is the most important factor when it comes to discussing personal issues at work and being able to be themselves. 

Simon Wingate, Managing Director at, says: “At, we want to help people​​​​​​ Love Mondays, and allow them to find jobs that suit both their career and personal goals. Our research suggests that whilst some people worry about showing up as their authentic selves at work, it’s something that British workers value really highly. We hope, by providing a range of different types of jobs, that our users can find jobs that they love and employers that allow them to be who they are, so they can show up as themselves with confidence every day.” 

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