"We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to be like other people."
--Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860)
Teenagers are my favorite people to watch. Their crusade to be different leads them to dress alike, talk alike, and act alike. They are uniquely the same. It's also a survival mechanism that leads to acceptance as well as the avoidance of getting whupped for standing out in a crowd and being too different.
I'm not sure that this phenomenon is any different in organizations. Let's face it: if expectations include cookie-cutter behavior, who wants to be the first to respond to a call for innovation, creativity, and risk-taking? In fact, it's probably difficult for people to believe that the request is even genuine.
How to Be Unique At Work--And Thrive
Your boss is looking for "better." Better methods, better revenue, better savings, better results, better quality. These give you two meaningful ways to show off your individuality:
1. What you produce that is different from anyone else's output (see "better" above).
2. How you go about doing it using your own methodology.
Once you're successful at those two, feel free to spike your hair, put rings in places they shouldn't be, and invite your boss to sing with you on company Karaoke night. We'll upload the photos here.
photo attribution: http://www.aeropostale.com/home