There is quite a bit being said about “being your authentic self at work”. Some companies put this message out there, but when employees bring their 100% authentic self to the office, they may subtlely begin to be treated differently. And then the breakup meeting is had with “authentic employee”, their Line Manager and Sally from HR.
“It’s not you, it’s us, we are going through a restructure and your position is being moved to outer Mongolia”.
In essence, what you are being told is “you bought way too much of your authentic self to work”.
So, what does being your authentic self actually mean in a work context? I consider it to be as follows; ensuring your core values are not being compromised and the corporate culture permits voicing of concerns, enabling you to walk in your authentic truth.
At this point, I will interject with a small caveat, which I am sure most will agree is obvious, being your authentic self at work, is still keeping it 100% professional for the industry in which you work – obvious right? But sometimes even the obvious needs to be stated.
Similar to the days when Corporate dress was still quite stuffy and “dress down Friday” was introduced, corporates felt the need to send a memo stating smart chinos, polo shirts, smart jeans, are suitable attire, however, spandex is not appropriate attire for dress down Friday. I subsequently returned my spandex bodysuit to my bottom draw 😊
There are also times when we just need to accept we are in the wrong company, we tried it and it simply is not working and there is no point trying to push a square peg through a round hole. This is neither the fault of the employee or employer, it could be down to different values, a corporate culture that is not conducive to your working style.
Importance of Authenticity within the workplace
Why is it important for employees to feel comfortable being their authentic self @ work? Employees who feel comfortable being their authentic self at work, are more passionate, feel more at ease to introduce innovative ideas, and overall it is an enabler to enhance employee engagement, thus increasing retention. From the company’s perspective, their consumer base is normally a diverse populace, which should be represented to varying degrees within their employee base so products/services produced are designed by those who understand their needs/wants. It’s a win-win right?
During my career trajectory when I knew my authentic self was being stifled within an organisation due to non-alignment, I knew I was in the wrong organisation, my next step; I thanked them for their time and bade them farewell. However, In instances where “isms” are being used as a form of victimisation to diminish you from walking in your authentic truth, action is required to call out both the discriminatory behaviour as well as the corporate culture, I am hoping we are closer to an age where such reports are being both listened to and appropriate action taken to eliminate such behaviour/culture.
Next Question: What happens if you are in an organisation where you do not feel empowered to walk in your authentic truth? Remember, there is power in choice. Seek alternatives, search for those companies that fit you, your authentic you. It is those companies that will value YOU.