Do you have a workplace persona? Or do you use a “work” voice?
If you do, you’re not alone. Many people feel as though they must leave their authentic selves behind when they’re at work.
While we’re not suggesting to drop the workplace pleasantries and forgo all professionalism, there are ways to bring your authentic self into the workplace so you can feel more at ease.
Even small shifts to bring your work self and your true self into more alignment can help you feel more engaged and fulfilled at work. We have some tips on how to show up more authentically at work -both as an employee and a leader.
What Does Authenticity at Work Mean?
Being authentic in the workplace means showing your true personality to others and not putting on a “workplace persona.”
Bringing your authentic self to the workplace can look like talking about your likes, dislikes, and hobbies. It can also look like being honest about why you need time off. Perhaps your child has a soccer game you need to attend.
It might mean standing up for what you believe in. Perhaps someone made a comment that made you feel uncomfortable. Staying true to yourself could mean making a complaint to HR or bringing up the comment to your manager.
Authenticity in the workplace can show up in a variety of ways. However, remember that being authentic in the workplace does not necessarily mean:
- Oversharing details about your personal life
- Forgoing workplace etiquette
- Bringing up sensitive topics
- Sharing negative feelings about coworkers
Some behaviors can come off as unprofessional and are best left at home. Being authentic does not mean you have to tell everyone every thought that comes into your mind. Rather, it’s about feeling safe to be who you are and not compromising your core values and beliefs.
Reasons Why Authenticity at Work Can be Difficult
Many people work in a psychologically unsafe environment – meaning they don’t feel like they can share their thoughts and feelings openly. Employees in these environments often choose to forgo their own values for the values of the company.
People are often afraid of being themselves in the fear they may be overlooked for a promotion or even punished for voicing a different opinion.
In situations that are unsafe, it is often easier to conform and put on a facade in order to protect yourself. In the long run, this may indicate a need to find a workplace where you can feel safer being yourself.
The Benefits of Authenticity at Work
When you try to separate your authentic self from your workplace self, it can create a dissonance that makes work feel particularly draining.
Putting on a front while at work requires more energy than simply being yourself. Doing this day after day can wear on you.
On the other hand, feeling valued and appreciated for who you are and what you bring to the table can create a more engaging and fulfilling work experience.
Being authentic can increase happiness, which in turn can increase productivity and motivation. Authenticity can also lead to stronger connections in the workplace and more respect for your colleagues and managers.
When team members feel safe to be themselves, this can lead to more collaboration and innovation. Authenticity promotes more candid discussions, which means people feel safe speaking up or disagreeing -which can spark new ideas and conversations.
Signs of an Authentic Team
Some signs of a team that embraces authenticity include:
- People feel safe to speak their mind
- Employees are honest about needing a break or needing to tend to personal matters
- Managers understand their employees have personal lives outside of work
- People own up to their mistakes
- People freely give and receive feedback
Being an Authentic Leader
As a manager or a leader, being inauthentic can create distance between you and your team members.
If you’re inauthentic, your team members may view you as difficult to read, cold, or too “buttoned-up.” In other words, you appear less like a real person and more like a figurehead for the company.
Your team members may not feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings, and feedback with you openly.
Being vulnerable helps break down that barrier. When you’re honest about an obstacle you’ve run into or acknowledge a mistake that you’ve made, it shows people that you’re more than a manager, you’re a person too. And you’re not that different from your employees.
Promoting Authenticity In Your Team
In order to create an authentic team, you must first lead by example. Consider what steps you could take to integrate more of who you are into the workplace.
If you’re a parent, that might mean being understanding when other parents prioritize their family. If you volunteer for a cause you care about, that might mean educating others about what you do.
These actions allow you to live your values at work while building trust and rapport with your team members.
Another important way to promote authenticity includes creating a safe space for your team members to share their thoughts and opinions. Try not to dismiss people’s ideas. Instead, use them as a jumping-off point.
Encourage feedback and create different channels where differing opinions can be shared. Whether that involves one-on-one meetings, anonymous surveys, monthly team check-ins, or all the above, you want to make sure that people have the opportunity to share their opinions and feel heard.
If you are struggling to be authentic or lead with authenticity in the workplace, therapy can help. Contact us for a free consultation today.