Covered Potential: The Perceived Impact of Workplace Covering on High Performers

Antoinette Bailey Nottingham, University of Pennsylvania


In spite of the progress made in the diversification of the U.S. workplace, each day a significant percentage of the American workforce perceives the need to mask aspects of themselves not just to succeed, but in many cases in order to survive, within their corporate cultures. Referred to as “covering,” the energy expended by these employees to hide, mitigate or disguise personal traits impacts their engagement, which research has shown has a correlation to organizational productivity and success. This is a qualitative phenomenological study that uses episodic narrative interviewing to address a gap in the literature by providing personal, first-party experiential insight from identified highly performing employees that perceive the need to cover. This study’s findings expand the current research on covering by demonstrating that patterns exist not only in how covering is conducted, but also in how it is experienced. While further study is warranted, the findings suggest that organizational efforts to increase employee inclusion and engagement would benefit from the reduction of workplace covering, which the data shows robs employees of the focus, passion, creativity, productivity, and often the organizational loyalty needed to support organizational success. Keywords: Covering, duality, mask, code-switching, double-consciousness, two-ness, acculturalization, marginalization, stigma, assimilation, conformity, diversity & inclusion, employee engagement, organizational productivity

Subject Area

Organizational behavior|Social research|Cultural Resources Management

Recommended Citation

Nottingham, Antoinette Bailey, "Covered Potential: The Perceived Impact of Workplace Covering on High Performers" (2020). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI27963411.