In my experience in working with employees across the globe, I have found that people vary in the importance they place on authenticity at work. Some employees think that work should just be about the job – leave your personal touch out of it. Other people think that the way you complete tasks is just as important as completing them overall. To address this debate, I am going to tackle the issue of authenticity at work this week. Spoiler alert: being yourself MATTERS. Research shows that authenticity at work relates to well-being because it enhances your sense of purpose on the job. But, how do you ensure that you and others are able to behave authentically at work? Read more for my tips below.
Your Authentic Self and Your Best Self Are Linked
The first tip is simple: if you don’t take care of yourself, you may not be able to bring your real self to work. For example, eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising are all important for being able to function as the best version of you. If you are hungry, tired, or feeling disconnected from your body, you may be more irritable than normal. So, if you want to be authentic at work, make sure that you are mentally and physically capable of bringing your true self to work. This means that you need to focus on your mental and physical health overall before you can truly “show up” at work. In other words, make healthy choices in your life and you’ll be able to connect with your true self at work.
Surrounding Yourself with Supportive People Promotes Authenticity
We have discussed the importance of making friends at work before. As it turns out, having support from others at work also allows you to be more authentic. Research shows that having support from your coworkers and your supervisor allows you to feel more confident in being yourself at work. Even more interesting, having support at work also shields you from negative influences that make you less likely to be authentic.
For example, do you have to work at an uncomfortably fast pace? Do you have to focus too intensely at work? Are you often put into upsetting situations at work? If so, you might be less likely to act authentically. You don’t have enough time to think about how you are connecting to your work because there is just so much of it, it’s so difficult, or it’s too stressful. But, if you have support from others, you can buffer those negative influences. As a result, you are more likely to act like yourself, even when things get stressful!
Being Accepted for Who You Are is Just as Important as Being Authentic
While it is very important to express yourself authentically at work, it’s also key to know that your work environment matters. This is particularly important when you identify with a group that has faced challenges in being accepted in society. For example, if you are the only woman on a male-dominated team, you may feel pressure to act in a more stereotypically masculine fashion to “fit in”. This is normal, but it can cause problems. Many people define who they are by examining the groups they belong to. This can be even truer when groups are forced to band together to fight for status in society.
Research that I recently co-authored demonstrated that being authentic is important for well-being, but only when others accept you for who you are. If you don’t feel comfortable being authentic around your coworkers, you might talk with your manager or HR. It might be necessary to create more awareness in your workplace about the challenges those from your group are facing. If you are a manager, you will have more personal responsibility for driving the culture. You need to be honest with yourself about whether the environment you’re creating is truly inclusive and welcoming to all employees. You may need to offer training or provide coaching on inclusivity across the organization. This is a win-win because it will increase the ability of all employees, including yourself, to be authentic at work.
Allow Yourself to “Let It All Out”
Finally, do you have a highly stressful job? Are you dealing with customers or clients frequently? Then you may need to find time at work to relax and break from the “act”. While we just talked about the importance of being authentic, there may be instances when you can’t act the way you feel. For example, if a customer is angry with you for no reason, you can’t always speak your mind. But, that’s ok. As long as you have a space at work where you can relax and decompress, preferably with others, an overall feeling of authenticity is still possible.
Research shows that having a “backstage” area is helpful for maintaining a climate for authenticity. This area may be someone’s office, a break room, or an outdoor area, where you can break the act. Even if you have to be “fake” every now and again, being able to let it all out at some point can help. Try talking through customer interactions with coworkers in private. You might also spend time confiding in your supervisor about an interpersonal issue you’re having. Even just being goofy when you’re not in the midst of something serious can make you feel more authentic on the whole. Generally, spending time being authentic isn’t a waste, even if the purpose is just to let off steam.
So, bring your whole self to work! Tap into support networks. Find or grow a culture of inclusivity. Finally, remember to vent every now and again. If you do, you will feel more authentic and well at work. What lessons have you learned about authenticity in the workplace? How do you manage being yourself at work? We would love to hear from you below!