"Be yourself", "Be authentic", "Bring your 'whole self' to work". You have probably heard this advice before. But how much personalism is enough, too little or indeed too much?
Finding your authentic balance may seem daunting; however, it need not be. A sustainable balance that feels beneficial, not tiresome, is sure to help you grow and succeed in whatever field you operate, thanks to the deeper and more genuine connections it will facilitate.
There are many benefits of being your authentic self at work. Conversely, feeling the need to hide your true self at work leads to higher stress and lower job satisfaction.
One of the primary and most obvious benefits is that being authentic at work can increase your overall well-being and happiness. Engagement, productivity, and motivation rise when you are happy at work.
Feeling valued in the workplace for being yourself can lead to better collaboration as people are less afraid to add their genuine and honest thoughts and ideas. Feeling appreciated also leads to more truthful and worthwhile feedback.
Fear of failure decreases as well, meaning employees are more likely to take educated risks and be creative, which leads to more forward-thinking innovation.
Define and refine your core values
Being authentic begins with knowing the core values you wish to apply to your life. To be able to articulate these requires exploration deep down into our identities, beliefs, and perspectives on the world, not just surface-level feelings or opinions.
When evaluating your core values, honestly consider whether they add or subtract from your life, both personally and professionally.
Suppose you suspect that any of your core values are comprising you. In that case, it is worth investing the time and energy into trying to reevaluate and develop new ones - core values are the basis of your habits, and so if they are not serving you, you may always find yourself on the back foot. For instance, perhaps one of your core values is to maintain your independence. Whilst independence is a great strength in many situations, it may also hold you back from embracing the benefits of teamwork and collaboration. In that case you may have to rethink your commitment to this value so as to achieve your full potential.
Treat people as individuals
Once you have identified your core values (and amended them if necessary), you can begin to investigate ways in which you can start to bring more of your true self to work in a way that feels comfortable and sustainable.
Firstly, try to see everyone you meet as a human being, rather than just a work contact, even your boss! Once you put this into practice, you will build more profound and genuine connections. If you see networking and interactions with colleagues as purely transactional, you will likely miss out on an opportunity to form deeper relationships.
Speaking naturally yet still respectfully, and sharing vulnerable personal information relevant to the task at hand, shows others that you are open and willing to engage on a non-superficial level. Although this may feel daunting at first, it will soon become second nature.
Nurture your relationships
After you have established connections with colleagues on a human-to-human basis you should then nurture these relationships. The best way to do this is simply by listening earnestly to what these colleagues have to say to you.
Try to pay attention to important details about other people's interests and passions, and follow up when you encounter things that remind you of them. This practice requires time and intent, but it can also be personally rewarding and fulfilling.
Your authenticity shines when you take a genuine and continued interest in others.
Be your true self
Some people may feel as though one version of themselves goes to work and another, more authentic version does everything else - it must be exhausting to maintain two different personas at once!
Spending so much time and energy trying to fit in and project a particular image means it is almost impossible to give 100% effort to the task at hand. Employees become more self assured, focused, and productive when allowed and encouraged to be themselves - in fact, in a 2021 survey published by Simmons University it was reported that 71% of people surveyed said that being authentic at work leads them to be more confident, more engaged, and generally happier.
In today's world, where home and work are so blended, it is more important than ever to endeavor to be your whole self in all aspects of your life. Life is too short, and everyone is too busy to maintain multiple personas at once!
The behavior of management sets the tone for the rest of the company
Making efforts to be authentic does not start and end only with the employees. Young professionals today are looking for workplaces where they can be themselves, and employers should play a crucial role in facilitating this.
It's essential to make sure employees feel seen and valued for who they are and not just what they can bring to the organization. But perhaps more crucial is for employers to show their true authentic selves by owning their own mistakes, celebrating their successes, and being self-aware and self-critical too.
Employers willing to embrace this will benefit from more creative conversations, more enhanced learning, and more confident and effective employees because they are also bringing their authentic selves into the workplace.
Being authentic might be the most courageous thing some of you have ever done. To be yourself, you first must know yourself. The time you've spent rooted in deep and honest reflection on your strengths, weaknesses, and values gives you a strong basis upon which to build. Get in touch with us if you're interested in learning to be your authentic self at work or need some assistance finding out who exactly your authentic self is.