The Authentic You at Work: More Than Just a Buzzword
Authenticity is a word that often gets overused in the corporate world and is connected with desirable leadership traits, employer expectations and inclusion and diversity strategies. But what does it really mean to show up as your authentic self at work and what does it take at both an individual and organisational level to support this to happen?
Authenticity is about being open, honest, transparent, and true to yourself in a way that’s consistent with your values. Being authentic means fully owning all the parts of yourself, even the ones that you’ve been conditioned to mask under a professional veneer. It means being willing to let go of the armour that has been built as a defence from previous experiences and situations, and the belief that you need to be someone you’re not to succeed.
Roadblocks to Authenticity
It’s daunting, isn’t it? The idea of being your whole self in an environment that can feel as though it rewards a certain type of alternate persona; often the alpha, assertive, perpetually overconfident male. Let’s break down what can get in the way.
The fear of judgment or exclusion can make it feel too risky or unsafe to be our authentic selves at work. Many of us have had personal experiences or witnessed situations where colleagues have faced backlash or been criticised when they’ve spoken up or behaved in a way that is different to the accepted norm. It can feel as though there’s an inner battle between the integrity of being your true self and the safety of conforming. Ultimately no one wants to do anything that limits their career opportunities, so naturally human nature is to veer away from any perceived danger or backlash of being authentic in a difficult dynamic.
While many organisations have values and principles that talk about the importance of authenticity, the reality of the lived experiences within a culture can be quite different. In our experience workplaces can often have an elite culture likened to ‘the popular kids’ at school with little tolerance for those who don’t fit the mould.
The gap between what’s said (policies, procedures, espoused leadership values) and what’s done (behaviours of leaders that are rewarded, recognised and promoted) creates a difficult environment to navigate. The unwritten rules exert a lot of pressure and confusion about what is safe and unsafe in the system, impacting the level of psychological safety experienced by employees.
Listen to our FB Live on what gets in the way of authenticity in the workplace.
How to Embrace and Share Your Authentic Self
In our book, Core Confidence we talk about the importance of authenticity (it’s one of the building blocks to Core Confidence: Be Authentic). The following steps can start the process of reconnection with your Core Confidence:
- Enhance your self-awareness: do some inner work to understand what is holding you back from being your authentic self / the roadblocks and fears.
- Get clear on who you are and what you want to be known for and be able to articulate this in an aligned and public way.
- Be context-aware: authenticity does not mean oversharing. People do not need to know absolutely everything about who you are, how you feel and what you are thinking. Be judicious about the situation at hand and consider the dynamics and your role within this.
- Small experiments: what are the situations and people where you can take small steps (we call these small Acts of Confidence) and share more of your authentic self?
Listen to our FB Live on how individuals can be more authentic at work.
Many organisations have values and policies that talk about the importance of openness, transparency and authenticity. To create a culture where these elements are truly fostered and encouraged, organisations should prioritise:
- Listening; truly listening to what is being said and what is not being said. Are all voices, especially those of minority groups, being heard and valued?
- Leverage your values as a compass to guide conversations and decisions; when you see behaviour that is impeding authenticity be prepared to call it out, using the values as a reference for why things need to be different.
- Foster a culture of respectful disagreement. Creating a culture that embraces different perspectives creates a sense of safety where people can be themselves, share their views, be innovative and take risks, without fearing backlash.
- Empower everyone to contribute. Resource leaders and all the people across your organisation with the capability to listen, to be authentic, to create safe spaces so we can include those different perspectives.
Listen to our FB Live on how organisations can foster authenticity in the workplace
Conclusion: The Authentic Path Forward
It’s time to take off the masks, put down the armour and step into our authentic power, to own our value, honour our truth and to move forward in our careers with confidence. It’s not just about what we do (the problems we solve, the value we bring), but who we are being while we do it. It’s time to start those small experiments, be more authentic and watch as they transform our work, our lives, and our world.
Want to find out how to reveal the real you in the workplace? Book a breakthrough call and talk through your ambitions for 2024 with one of our confidence coaches.
 Tony Gregg in People Management https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/article/1814062/five-ways-leaders-practise-self-reflection-why-its-important-business-growth
 Forbes article Why Reflection is Crucial to Leadership, Future Planning and Success: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2021/01/12/why-reflection-is-crucial-to-leadership-future-planning-and-success/?sh=3319f737e57f