“Just be yourself!”

Peter Fleming (Queen Mary College, University of London, London, UK)
Andrew Sturdy (Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Publication date: 2 October 2009



The paper seeks to explore the nature and employee experience of an emergent approach to managing employees which emphasises “being yourself” through the expression of fun, individuality and difference.


The paper utilises interviews and observations in a US‐owned call centre in Australia.


The management approach outlined is located within the emergence of market rationalism and associated claims of the limitations of normative control. With its emphasis on diversity and identity derived from non‐(paid) work contexts, it is presented as complementary to, but distinct from, the group conformity and organisational identity associated with conventional culture and “fun” management. The seemingly liberal regime is shown to be controlling in its limited scope and by exposing more of the employees' self to the corporation. This raises questions about the nature of workplace control, resistance and the meaning of authenticity at work.


The research provides an insight into an approach to management which has been largely neglected in research and proposes a modified concept of culture and “fun” management – neo‐normative control. It also serves to challenge the liberal claims made by proponents of the new approach and of “fun at work” more generally, that it is liberating for employees, a form of “existential empowerment”.



Fleming, P. and Sturdy, A. (2009), "“Just be yourself!”", Employee Relations, Vol. 31 No. 6, pp. 569-583. https://doi.org/10.1108/01425450910991730

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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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