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The Case For Authenticity At Work

by Edison Ade 9 months ago in advice
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Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that your true self wasn’t acknowledged?

The Case For Authenticity At Work
Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that your true self wasn't acknowledged? You know, that moment when you feel like you are standing on the edge of an identity crisis? You are not sure what you should be acting or feeling like. Yeah, me too…it's difficult. Well, let's take a step back and think about what it means to be authentic in the workplace. And maybe we can find the courage to bring our authentic selves to work every day.

Most of us were "raised" in the workplace to be "professional". We were taught that being a professional meant putting our personality and beliefs aside. In fact, many times "faking it" is what it took to get ahead. But is that the best approach? And is it possible to be authentic at work?

We can become more genuine, confident, and successful individuals when we embrace our true selves in the workplace.

It is about being who you really are and allowing the people in your organisation to see that. It is about finding a balance between being yourself and fitting into a business culture - one where the values of your company are aligned with your own values and beliefs.

In a world of platitudes, clichés, and career-crucifying performance reviews, authenticity at work can be a risky, even foolhardy option. You might fail to win over your boss or get that promotion you've always wanted and worked so hard for. But if you embrace your true self and hold firm to it when appropriate, you'll have a better chance of finding success and appreciation in the workplace.

A virus of false flattery, buzzwords, and spin has infested how we work - how we give feedback and make decisions. These phoney interactions, though often meant to reward employees and impress bosses, do little to foster authenticity or strengthen relationships.

Authenticity at work matters. It's a simple concept - one on which most agree - that is harder to achieve than it may seem. Whether we're talking about unsolicited compliments or empty praise, manipulative falsehoods can easily worm their way into the fabric of our working relationships.

Small moments - the brief encounters with other people that make up a day at the office - are where authentic presence thrives or dies. Our authenticity represents who we are without guile. It flows from within us. It's the person we choose to be rather than the person others demand that we be.

Authenticity is not a quality you gain once and suddenly embody forever after; it must be nurtured continuously. And when you do so, it produces rewards both large and small - a sense of meaning in your job, a feeling of connection with your colleagues and customers, and the ability to see and seize opportunities as they arise.

Many smart companies know this to be true. When people feel pressure from their organizations to suppress who they are at work, it creates stress that harms employees' well-being and saps them of energy for anything else. In turn, happiness becomes a key differentiator in attracting talent, motivating employees, and fostering collaboration. Employees today also seek meaning in their work - they want to feel that what they do matters, that it's making a difference. In fact, "a sense of meaning" is the most highly desired benefit among employees. It far outranks even competitive pay and bonuses. That quest for meaning leads many employees to look outside of traditional jobs for something more inspiring.

Don't be afraid of showing your true self. Expressing yourself will help build trust with your employees and show them that you're a safe person for them to open up to as well. Encourage self-expression among your employees. Don't just tolerate it but celebrate it! Encourage everyone to bring their full selves to work each day! Take an interest in who people really are outside of work and their interests and hobbies!

For most people work is one of the most important parts of life, if not the most important part. So authenticity has taken on a new dimension: It's no longer about simply representing yourself honestly; it's about being true to who you are at your very core as you fulfil the duties of your job.

  • At work, authenticity means "being yourself."
  • Authenticity doesn't mean only being nice. It's also OK to disagree with others and stand up for your beliefs even if they're unpopular.
  • Being authentic requires courage - the courage to be who you really are, the courage to show it, and the courage to act on it.
  • Authenticity is especially important in small moments because so much of our effectiveness depends on how we treat people when nobody's looking: in passing, in casual settings, when we're stressed out and anxious.
  • Authenticity requires a high degree of self-awareness - not merely being aware of our actions but also understanding the motivation behind them. This awareness is where authenticity begins to get really interesting: You can choose whether to be automated in your responses or to view each moment as a test of who you want to be at work today.
  • It's difficult for people to be authentic in crowded settings because they tend not to speak up or feel intimidated by group dynamics. Or when they do open their mouths, it may bring on severe backlash from colleagues who view what they have said as inappropriate or incorrect. In group settings, authenticity often gets in the way of social cohesion and political correctness.
  • Many people like to think that they're authentic but aren't always in practice, because to enact authenticity we must give up the safety net of the persona we hide behind at work - the self we play when we don't want our true selves to be seen by others.
  • Authenticity also requires us to engage with intense feelings such as anxiety and anger, because if we suppress them it often leads to passive-aggressive behaviour instead of genuine dialogue.
  • Conventional wisdom says you need to hide your personality to succeed in the workplace. The old school thinking was that if you showed up as your authentic self, you would never be accepted. You'd be seen as too pushy or too passive, too outspoken or not influential enough. The old school thinking is far from the truth. Not only is it possible to be authentic at work, but it's essential if you want to become a highly effective leader.

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    About the author

    Edison Ade

    Business Strategist, Building Products for companies using Web and Mobile technologies. Fractional CMO.

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