Courtney McCluney

Code-switching at work comes with costs, researchers write in The Big Think

December 10, 2019

“It’s exhausting navigating an all-white workplace.”

That was the response one survey participant gave researchers—including former Center for Positive Organizations (CPO) faculty affiliate Courtney L. McCluney and CPO Magnify Immersion Program alumna Serenity Lee—when asked about code-switching.

The researchers share their survey findings in an article called “The Costs of Code-Switching” in Harvard Business Review’s “The Big Idea” publication.

Code-switching is the practice of adjusting one’s self-expression to fit in with a majority group.

“Our research clearly shows that minorities who code-switch are likely to face a professional dilemma: Should they suppress their cultural identity for the sake of career success? Or should they sacrifice potential career advancement for the sake of bringing their whole selves to work?” the researchers write. “This dilemma not only poses career and psychological risks for individuals, it also damages organizations, which may miss out on the distinct perspectives and contributions from racial minorities who are uncomfortable being themselves in the workplace.”

The researchers conclude by offering organizations, leaders, and black employees recommendations for how to address code-switching in the workplace.