We have all been taught to present the best version of ourselves at work, or at least felt pressure at work to fit in, act as if we know what we are doing, and hide our weaknesses. However, being your ‘whole self’ or ‘authentic self’ at work has been discussed a lot recently.
Deloitte published a report in on the detrimental impact of ‘covering’ part of your background at work, with research showing more than half of employees cover some part of their identity at work, and underrepresented groups feel the most pressure to cover some aspect of themselves.
Other groups have also talked about authenticity in terms of the benefit to lowering stress levels, increasing happiness, and accelerating progress and performance. Also vulnerability has been suggested to act like a bridge connecting people closer together, but also as a tool that can be used in building relationships – by presenting yourself as relatable and likable.
So what is authenticity? Authenticity is bringing all elements of who we are to work – our passions, side projects, relationships, partners, kids; Our strengths and weaknesses, pressures and concerns. Not having to cover anything up; The ability to go to work and being able to be completely you – and for that to be enough.
Perhaps it is thought of as unnecessary or impossible for workplaces to accommodate individual differences and circumstances. Or they are simply not aware of or concerned about the pressure and responsibilities coming from life outside work. Making the effort to support and accommodate employees can have incredibly positive effects.
1. Pretending is exhausting and stressful. Whether an employee be concerned about a project, or about needing to leave work early to pick up their children – when the issue can be addressed openly time spent being stressed can be allocated to more meaningful tasks.
2. Confidence and learning will improve. When people are confident in their starting position they will be more comfortable in taking initiative and risk. Consequently learning and improvement will be accelerated as a result of engagement, enjoyment and practice rather than fear and avoidance.
3. Communication and team work will improve. Being comfortable in being yourself around your team, you will be less guarded and more open in conversation allowing conversations to be more productive. Showing less inhibition about contributing creative ideas leads to more innovative projects. Providing constructive criticism when it is needed prevents projects from failing. When communication is more efficient team work is more effective and there is greater avoidance of mistakes and misunderstandings.