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Whyte, W. H. (1956).  The Organization Man.
"We practice a great mutual deception. Everyone knows that they themselves are different—that they are shy in company, perhaps, or dislike many things most people seem to like—but they are not sure that other people are different too. Like the norms of personality testing, they see about them the sum of efforts of people like themselves to seem as normal as others and possibly a little more so. It is hard enough to learn to live with our inadequacies, and we need not make ourselves more miserable by a spurious ideal of middle-class adjustment. Adjustment to what? Nobody really knows—and the tragedy is that they don't realize that the so-confident-seeming other people don't know either."
Laing, R. D. (1965).  The Divided Self.
"The component we wish to separate off for the moment is the initial compliance with the other person's intentions or expectations for one's self, or what are felt to be the other person's intentions or expectations. This usually amounts to an excess of being 'good', never doing anything other than what one is told, never being 'a trouble', never asserting or even betraying any counter-will of one's own. Being good is not, however, done out of any positive desire on the individual's part to do the things that are said by others to be good, but is a negative conformity to a standard that is the other's standard and not one's own, and is prompted by the dread of what might happen if one were to be oneself in actuality. [emphasis mine] This compliance is partly, therefore, a betrayal of one's own true possibilities, but is also a technique of concealing and preserving one's own true possibilities, which, however, risk never becoming translated into actualities if they are entirely concentrated in an inner self for whom all things are possible in imagination but nothing is possible in fact."
Fromm, E. (1973).  The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness.
"The individual loses his active, responsible role in the social process; he becomes completely 'adjusted' and learns that any behavior, act, thought, or feeling which does not fit into the general scheme puts him at a severe disadvantage; in fact he is what is is supposed to be. If he insists on being himself, he risks, in police states, his freedom or even his life; in some democracies, he risks not being promoted, or more rarely, he risks even his job, and perhaps most importantly, he risks feeling isolated, without communication with anybody." (p. 53)
Hawthorne, N., Bradley S. E., & Long H. E. (1978).  The Scarlet Letter: An Authoritative Text, Essays in Criticism and Scholars.
"No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true."
Kaufman, G. (1985).  Shame: The Power of Caring.
"Disowning of self robs us not only of integrity but inner security as well." (p. 111)
Schwartz, H. S. (1990).  Narcissistic Process and Corporate Decay: The Theory of the Organizational Ideal.
"There is something not only unnatural but positively impossible about becoming someone else. But this is obligatory. The result is that the person one really is not only is unacceptable to oneself, but is unacceptable in social life, which is in turn composed of persons who are each unacceptable in social life for the same reasons. The result is that social interaction takes place not between persons, but between performances. Roles utter words at other roles. And if at any time any one of them were to say, as each of them somehow knows, 'This is a bunch of nonsense,' that person would become a pariah because he or she would bring out in all these people the anxiety that motivated the performance in the first place and maintained it at all times. Thus, each of these persons must live in more or less complete isolation and be terribly lonely." (p. 26)
Middelton-Moz, J. (1990).  Shame & Guilt: Masters of Disguise.
"When a person puts forth a 'false self' to the world and hides the real self, there is no way to believe that acceptance is possible. It is only through disclosing our real selves that we can feel lovable." (p. 34)
Drucker, P. F. (1993).  The Effective Executive.
"All in all, the effective executive tries to be himself; he does not pretend to be someone else. He looks at his own performance and at his own results and tries to discern a pattern." (p. 97)
Hirschorn, L. (1993).  The Psychodynamics of Organizations. (Howell S. Baum, Eric L. Trist, James Krantz, Carole K. Barnett, Steven P. Feldman, Thomas N. Gilmore, Laurence J. Gould, Larry Hirschorn, Manfred F.R. KetsDeVries, Laurent Lapierre, Howard S. Schwartz, Glenn Swogger, David A. Thomas, Donald R. Young, Abraham Zaleznik, Michael A. Diamond, Ed.).
"Managers and executives in contemporary organizations must exercise great initiative while delegating substantial authority to those below them. It is no longer adequate simply to give and take orders. But as people experience greater freedom in their roles, they must also confront the anxieties and conflicts that bedevil them when they exercise authority. The external world of work is shaped increasingly by people's inner feelings and interior experiences. When people cannot take up their authority freely and without undue conflict and anxiety, they fear that authentic self-expression, the full flowering of their resources and vitality, will hurt them. As the three cases presented above suggest, in the face of this prospect some people will behave in inhibited ways, while others will mask their insecurity and neediness by overreaching and demanding too much. In this sense, we can say that people are relying on what Winnicott (1959 [1965], 1960 [1965]) calls a 'false self,' as opposed to a 'true self,' to take up their roles. They will, as a result, lack flexibility and vitality, and instead they will often behave in repetitive, constricted, non-task-oriented, and frequently self-defeating ways." (p. 60)
Bramson, R. (1994).  Coping with Difficult Bosses.
"There are certainly times when honest spontaneity is the key to improved human relationships, but while you are being harpooned by a hostile boss is not one of those times. It is then you need to do what actors do—communicate emotions you do not feel." (p. 20)
Fromm, E. (1994).  Escape From Freedom.
"The inability to act spontaneously, to express what one genuinely feels and thinks, and the resulting necessity to present a pseudo self to others and oneself, are the root of the feeling of inferiority and weakness. Whether or not we are aware of it, there is nothing of which we are more ashamed than of not being ourselves, and there is nothing that gives us greater pride and happiness than to think, to feel, and to say what is ours." (p. 288)
Wilmer, H. A. (1994).  Understandable Jung: the personal side of Jungian psychology.
"With our personas, we often attempt to present our idealized selves, our ego ideals. Therefore, it hides our shadows and protects us from the shadows of others. It is a kind of acceptable sham." (p. 33)
Parady, M. (1995).  7 Secrets for Successful Living: Tapping the Wisdom of Ralph Waldo Emerson to Achieve Love, Happiness, and Self-Reliance.
"Conforming to a way of life you do not believe in diminishes your power, for you are working against yourself. Although you may accomplish much in the way of outward success, in your core fear and weakness reign. Why do you think many people feel disillusioned when they finally achieve success? Those who do usually say 'something is missing,' and that something is usually their real selves." (p. 22)
Hulme, W., & Hulme L. (1995).  Wrestling with depression: a spiritual guide to reclaiming life.
"Our society teaches us to be open to receiving communication as long as that communication is nonthreatening. However, because we are always in competition with one another, the communication is usually threatening. This leads us to forms of protection such as facades and interpersonal isolation, both of which promote depression....

Each cover-up or facade makes us more unreal to ourselves. Eventually we are out of touch with some areas of ourselves." (p. 89)

Wyatt, J., & Hare C. (1997).  Work Abuse: How to Recognize and Survive It.
"Those people with the most polished false selves, those adhering most closely to the imaged organizational ideal, are 'successful.' People who are unable to meet the false-self evaluations may feel worthless largely because their authentic (and more valuable) selves have not been developed sufficiently as fallback when they experience failure of their false (imaged) selves." (p. 59)

"Aspiring managers begin early to adhere to managers' norms by developing a false self—a mask that hides their shame and their lack of knowledge of details for which they may be held responsible. The mask gives the external impression of an internal sense of authority that is most often nonexistent. Managers' meetings are usually stressful exhibitions of the enforcement of false-self norms—always a test for new managers. In these meetings, managers compete with each other in giving a believable false-self performance: each must discuss creditably what few present know anything about." (p. 103)

Smye, M. D. (1998).  Is It Too Late to Run Away and Join the Circus?: Finding the Life You Really Want.
"'I get myself up in the morning. I shave my face. I dress in my clothes. I go to my office. I do my work. I come back to my house. But I feel like I'm only doing an imitation of myself, and it's not a terrific impersonation.'"
Dobson, M. S., & Dobson D. S. (2000).  Managing Up! : 59 Ways to Build a Career-Advancing Relationship with Your Boss.
"It's obvious that you do bring elements of your true self to the job environment, though some bring more than others. But you aren't and can't be completely be your true self at work." (p. 73)
Beal, D. (2001).  The Tragedy in the Workplace: The Longest Running Show in the Country.
"The ego is also an actor, a false identity playing a role we believe is real. Its stage is the workplace, and its drama is a tragedy—complete with pain, suffering, triumph, and loss.

This tragedy is a real-life tragedy as long as we exist here on the physical plane. We cannot go home and be thankful it was only a movie or stage play.

It is our life." (p. 34)

Finley, G., Howard V., & Arnaz D. (2002).  The Secret of Letting Go.
"A man who doesn't know his true identity does not know that he really doesn't know. The fact that he is confused, frightened and still searching for himself remains almost totally unsuspected by him, because he has unknowingly assumed a false identity.

This temporary, false self feels real because it is animated and driven along by the man's reactions as he seeks himself. The fact that this lower nature is driven does not mean it is alive. A bulldozer rolls along too, but it cannot see or understand why it smashes into things. It is a machine. So, in many ways, is the false self." (p. 34)

Hoover, J. (2003).  How to work for an idiot: survive & thrive– without killing your boss.
"The plan I suggest in this chapter is the old 'false identity' ploy. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Or make it appear as if you're joining 'em. Sometimes it's just no use fighting the system. Burn your personal fuel cells on things you have some control over and enjoy. If you're trapped in a culture of idiots with no possibility for improvement in your lifetime, you might as well blend in. Why burn yourself out?" (p. 32)
Cox, A. M. (2003).  I Am Never Lonely: A brief history of employee personality testing.
"So personality tests aren't really about you: they're about money. If you lie on a personality test to get a job, it means that you understand that a job, a salary, is worth submerging your own self for."
Janes, J., & Sheehy G. (2007).  The Power of Experience : Great Writers Over 50 on the Quest for a Lifetime of Meaning.
"Crossing into second adulthood pushes us beyond the preoccupation with self. We are compelled to reexamine the made-to-order persona that gained us points and protection in our earlier, striving years. As we become more certain of the values we stand for—as we hunger to find more significance in the actions we take in the world—we may permit a 'little death' of that 'false self'. If so, we make room for the birth of a new self, one with the 'roundedness' of personality that Jung describes as possible only in the afternoon of life.

That is the power of experience." (p. xvii)

See also: psychic prison, alienation, deception, conformity, organizational ideal, identity, integrity

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SKOS concepts and relations

Concept Scheme: business culture/management vocabulary

URI: business culture/management vocabulary


  • Concept: false_self
    • preferred: false self
    • alternate: pseudo self
    • alternate: false identity
    • alternate: pretense
    • definition: the act of giving a false appearance; "his conformity was only pretending"
    • related: psychic_prison
    • related: alienation
    • related: deception
    • related: conformity
    • related: organizational_ideal
    • closeMatch:
    • keyword-194
    • antonym: identity
    • antonym: integrity
    • linked content:
      • sense: feigning
      • sense: pretence
      • sense: pretending
      • sense: pretense
      • sense: simulation
      • pretense
      • in scheme:
      • gloss: the act of giving a false appearance; "his conformity was only pretending"
      • hyponym of:
      • synset id: 100754956
  • W3C SKOS spec
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