Should we be authentic at work? Yes, we should always try to retain the essence of who we are. But 100% transparent, all the time, no matter what the situation? Not necessarily.
Are you exactly the same person on the job as you are at other times? Me either. It seems that many people, maybe most, act differently at work. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
At work, we play the role that best fits that environment. That persona does not have to be totally different than who we are normally; it can be an authentic version of the person we really are.
And it’s okay, even advised, to show discretion in how we display our authenticity.
“But the honest sharing of thoughts, feelings, and experiences at work is a double-edged sword. Getting it right takes a deft touch …” (“Be Yourself, but Carefully”, Harvard Business Review)
When We Lose Who We Are
Sometimes we adopt a work persona that is not true to who we really are.
We make trade-offs in too many areas in an effort to do well, or look good, or get ahead. When we start to change character traits that really matter, we are giving up too much.
I was perhaps at my least authentic professionally after I transferred into Sales. It was a big change from being an Engineer, and I wanted to make a good impression and do well. Therefore, I acted like the best sales people in the office acted, even when that wasn’t who I really was.
I did well in Sales, but it came at a cost. The pressure was high, heightened by the burden that being non-authentic brings. Later, coming to faith brought my actions, and my motives, into question. I found a new foundation for authenticity, because I had a reason to be.
Being Authentic at Work
It’s okay to have a work ‘you’ and a personal ‘you,’ as long as they are both the real ‘you.’
For example, you may be more focused at work. Or more outgoing, or results-oriented. That’s okay, as long as you are being authentic in the things that matter most.
“Authenticity therefore is to be of your undisputed origin. That means authenticity isn’t about what you wear or even your ‘personality.’ Authenticity is who you are as a person at your core.” (“Define ‘Authentic’ At Work”, InPower Coaching)
There needs to be a core part of you that remains the same, and that identity should include:
- Your character – your sense of right and wrong, ethics and honesty, who you really are.
- Your spirituality – your relationship with God, your beliefs and overall world view.
- The way you treat people – being open, trustworthy, empathetic, and ready to serve.
None of those areas are negotiable if you are going to be truly authentic at work, or in life.
And being true to the things that matter is worth whatever the cost.
Question: Do you feel you are normally authentic at work?
Action: Think of an area where you give up too much of the real you.