Are you being authentic at work?
Firstly, what is ‘authentic’? It’s accurate meaning is ‘of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.’ Other synonyms include, original, real, actual, true.
Authenticity is not something we have or don't have. It’s a practice - a conscious choice of how we want to live. Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
- Brene Brown
We hear it frequently these days - ‘be authentic’, ‘be yourself’, ‘don’t pretend to be someone you’re not’.
That said it’s not unusual to leave our ‘true selves’ at the office door. Picture it - you’ve served breakfast, washed and dressed three vivacious children; packed the car with school bags, gym kits, footballs, art projects and packed lunches (seriously, you look like you’re going away for a week); ferried the troop to school (add in one U-turn because you forgot the class hamster); got soaked in the playground (always rains at school drop off) and returned to the car drenched, bedraggled and out of breath. You battle the usual morning traffic, before you park up at work and take a long, deep breath. Then you prepare to leave it all behind. You swap the (sodden) ballet pumps for a pair of killer heels, slap on your lippy, remove a stray coco pop from the back of your shift dress and sashay into the office like the fierce tigress you are. Get the gist?
We change into the person we think we ought to be - we put on our work mask, get into character, play the part. We spend our lives trying to fit in, please everyone, do the right thing, say the right thing (in the right tone and the right accent because surely we’ll sound more intelligent if we drop the Yorkshire accent right?).
But do we lose sight of who we truly are as a person? Do we still worry about how we are perceived by colleagues and bosses? Of course, to some extent we have to actively manage our behaviour, emotions, the language we use and our overall manners, but has it gone too far? Shouldn’t pretending to be someone else completely and hiding the real you be a thing of the past?
Here’s what I believe being authentic is about:
Honesty: Being honest, firstly with yourself. Ever asked yourself ‘who am I?’ and really thought about the answer? Who are you? What do you want? What do you believe in?
Transparency: Being transparent. Admit what you don’t know, and don’t try to ‘fake it til you make it’. (N.B Would this help teams work better together?) Being sincerely authentic makes people more relatable. It may create an open minded, accepting workplace where different views and opinions are shared and accepted (and differing viewpoints can invariably lead to new and innovative solutions).
Trust: Authenticity in my book is fundamentally about trust. Being open and honest, and empowering others through trust. (How about building trust and confidence within teams, and possibly eradicating issues before they worsen?) If leaders are authentic and stay true to what they believe in and admit when they’ve made a mistake, it encourages others and gives them permission to do the same. It can win hearts and minds.
Truth: Speaking the truth (even when it’s crazy hard) whilst remaining respectful to others. The philosophical ‘three gates of speech’ is a great rule to live by (before you speak, let your words pass through three gates (or filters) – ‘Is it true?’ ‘Is it necessary?’ ‘Is it kind?’
Do you show the real you at work? Would you like your colleagues to reveal more of their true selves?
Being authentic doesn’t mean being unprofessional however - turning up to work in your tracksuit bottoms and speaking in the same manner in which you’d speak with your friends down the pub. You can find ways to be yourself within the boundaries of what’s acceptable.
Dress code is a workplace norm, but in some companies it’s apparent that with the absence of such, (for example in digital agencies), individuals have more freedom to express themselves and their creativity. Being uncomfortable in what you’re wearing, how you’re acting or what you’re presenting/selling, will be noticed by others (your clients for example), and you certainly won’t be performing at your best. Cue damage to morale. Being authentic is important for self-fulfilment and self-worth. So perhaps being more authentic in the workplace would lead to greater job satisfaction and ultimately performance?
Are there any situations where authenticity isn’t a good thing? Can you be too authentic?
As with most things, you can sometimes have too much - (wine, chocolate, vitamins, television) or go too far in one direction. There’s a balance to be struck. One example is over sharing – expressing thoughts, emotions, stresses and dislikes too freely and openly. Or letting raw emotions flow freely - being happy and jovial one minute then ranting and raving the next. Could it encourage inappropriate behaviors? Authenticity doesn't mean sharing everything about your personal life – far from it. Good boundaries matter, and we still need to use a filter to some extent! We have to observe certain work etiquette, so you wouldn't want to adorn your email to the CEO with emoji’s or start dropping the f-bomb. Authenticity is more concerned with who you are at your core, and what you believe in.
People can be multidimensional in their personalities and may have many different ways to express themselves at home, at work, and in social situations. Therefore it would be unfitting to suggest that one person should act the same in all situations, but perhaps one could be more consistent with their true self.
What are your thoughts on authenticity in the workplace? Do you cover up some or all of your personality or do you really leave nothing at the door when you arrive at work? Could you be truly authentic or would it damage your career?
I do believe you can be true to yourself AND thrive and experience success in the workplace.
Much love, Fran xxx
ABOUT FRAN GRANT
Wife to a very lucky husband. Mum to 3 beautiful little boys. Gym, yoga and self care enthusiast. Lover of food, coffee, wine and gin. Self confessed bookworm and book hoarder. Advocate for keeping the magic of reading alive for today’s children. And last but not least - Writer (currently trying my hand at kids fiction and rhyming stories). Thanks for visiting my site - expect to see posts mainly related to reading and writing, with occasional musings about family, parenting and life in general. Oh, and plenty of book reviews! Hope you enjoy! Much love, Fran x