Wherever you work, it’s easy to feel as though you’re not being your real self during the 9 to 5. From the attire you wear to the words you speak – it can sometimes seem like there’s a pressure to conform in order to get ahead.
Attempting to fit in like this is more akin to a façade or an act than anything else. And that can actually be detrimental to our work, engagement and productivity.
But lately, going by the book is, more and more, being replaced by the idea of authenticity. At all levels, employees are encouraged to be more open and candid in their approach to the working day to foster greater trust and improve performance.
And while showing your true colours should be handled with care, when it’s done right, it can create benefits that everyone will be appreciative of.
Below, we’ll define what it means to be authentic in the workplace, its advantages, and how you and your team can lose the façade and be more honest, authentic and true to yourself.
What authenticity means at work
Being authentic is all about being genuine and living your life in a way that’s true to yourself. In the workplace, therefore, authenticity allows employees to go about their day as their whole selves, and feel safe, secure, and comfortable as a result.
To do that, the workplace should be an environment with a sense of belonging and psychological safety. Employees should be at ease speaking their minds, making mistakes and being honest with others.
With that said, authenticity at work isn’t a license to behave how you would at home. You’re still at work after all (even if you are working remotely right now). There are still boundaries to be maintained and filters to be considered – there’s still such a thing as being too open with others, after all.
A good rule of thumb: not everyone needs to see your true self, at least not all the time anyway.
The benefits of being authentic at work
So how can letting the mask slip, so to speak, help you and your team in the long run? Let’s take a look…
– Happier employees: When they know they aren’t putting on an act, it’s easier for employees to come to work happy – and stay happy. And that a good mood translates to more engagement, greater productivity and increased motivation across the team.
– Greater morale: Speaking of teams, when their authentic selves are shown to be more effective, they’ll feel more appreciated in themselves and stronger amongst each other. The collaboration that flourishes, as a result, can have a powerful effect on their performance.
– Better feedback: Holding back and walking on eggshells can often be detrimental to professional development, especially where feedback is concerned. But when people aren’t afraid to (respectfully) share their opinions, feedback becomes more valuable and constructive, which allows everyone to learn and grow.
– Increased innovation: When people feel less shackled at work, making mistakes becomes less of an issue and ideas can flourish far more than usual. With more license to take risks and be creative, innovation becomes ingrained into your team.
How leaders can become more authentic
Want to be more authentic as a leader? Use these helpful hints to start building more trust, openness, and honesty within your team…
We’re not saying the workplace needs to become a therapy session where you share your life story. But being vulnerable with your team can let them get to know you as a person on a more human level, which goes a long way to forging stronger connections.
Again, there’s a fine line between being vulnerable and dumping your emotions onto your team, so try to tread lightly. But even if you’re just talking about one of your hobbies or what your plans for the weekend are, you might be surprised by how much more approachable this makes you.
Show your team that mistakes are ok
At work, we’re taught that making mistakes is the ultimate no-no, an error of such monumental magnitude that they’re impossible to recover from. But actually, mistakes should be seen as an opportunity to grow.
When you show your team that it’s OK to make mistakes, it allows them to, in turn, be more honest and open when they make mistakes of their own. The last thing anyone should be doing is acting like nothing is wrong.
When everyone can admit to making mistakes, it gives you and your team a chance to come up with solutions that, in the long term, will help make the team a lot stronger.
Ask for feedback
A great way of being more authentic, and instilling authenticity within your team, is by making your colleagues know that their voices matter. Not only can you learn from them, but it also gives them a chance to be open and honest with you – about you. By valuing their perspective, it shows how much you’re invested in them, which they’ll definitely appreciate.
Try facilitating this feedback by scheduling regular one-to-ones, asking for feedback on an ad-hoc basis and making it a feature of their performance reviews.
Part of the psychological safety we talked about earlier involves creating a sense of belonging – for both yourself and your team. If certain team members feel on the outside of things, then they’ll find it difficult to open up and be authentic themselves.
You can ensure this doesn’t happen by being more inclusive in your behaviour. Along with asking for feedback, bring everyone into the fold by showing empathy, recognising their achievements, asking for their opinions in team meetings, and getting to know them on a social level.
In a virtual environment especially, going the extra mile to be more inclusive is absolutely vital.
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