“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.” – Steve Jobs
Most of us have to wear different “hats” on a daily basis, switching from role to role to accommodate our own needs, all while meeting the needs of our families and coworkers, too. It can be challenging to balance all of these roles, especially if putting on each of these hats comes with having to be an entirely different version of yourself.
Our jobs are one area of our lives that often come with several hats, and with all of these hats can come inauthenticity. But, authenticity is notoriously tricky in the workplace. You might resist showing your true self for fear of looking weak, vulnerable, or unprofessional. You may also fear that your coworkers won’t accept your true self, so it’s easier to build walls around yourself by being someone you’re not.
The truth is, being your authentic self can make you a better leader who is more reliable, stable, and influential than a leader who isn’t being their true self.
Before you can determine how much of your real self to show at work, it’s important to understand what inauthenticity looks like in the workplace in the first place. It can be different for everyone, but generally, it involves a few similar components.
1) Going Against Your Core Beliefs and Values
Your core beliefs are those you hold dear and follow in your personal and professional life. If you find yourself agreeing to things or making decisions that violate these core values at work because you fear the backlash or disappointing your coworkers, this is likely inauthenticity.
2) Not Standing Up for Yourself
Perhaps in your personal life, you’d never let someone speak disrespectfully to you, but at work things are different. You may put up with bullying or abusive behaviour at work because you don’t want to deal with the repercussions of making a complaint, or the company culture makes you feel as though you can’t speak up.
3) Dramatic Personality Shifts Between Work and Your Personal Life
Maybe you’re an introvert in your personal life and feel recharged by spending time on your own, but at work, you force yourself to be extroverted and constantly “on.” Perhaps you try to be this extroverted version of yourself because you think it makes you more likable at work and helps you fit in, but really, it could mean you’re acting inauthentically.
So, how much of your real self should you show at work?
The answer: Enough that you’re not draining your energy trying to be someone else.
There’s a very high cost of being inauthentic at work. If you spend all day forcing yourself to be outgoing and extroverted, by the end of the day you have nothing left for yourself or for anyone else. According to several studies, this inauthenticity ultimately leads to higher rates of unhappiness, along with overall workplace dissatisfaction. Consider how much more productive you’ll be if all the energy you spend trying to be someone else is instead spent focusing on doing your best work, and you still have energy left at the end of the day for your family and friends.
Becoming a more authentic version of yourself at work won’t happen overnight, but there are several steps you can implement in the meantime to help you get there.
It can begin with something as simple as having a difficult conversation with a team member that you’ve been putting off. Over time, these conversations will become more natural, and speaking up when you’re called to is a huge proponent of being authentic.
Another way to be your authentic self at work? Admitting and accepting your weaknesses! We often feel compelled to cover up our weaknesses at work for fear of being just that: weak. But truthfully, when you admit to your shortcomings and ask for the help you need, you foster closer relationships with your team and coworkers. Demonstrating your humanity by being authentic and showing vulnerability with your team is a powerful way to discover how quickly and deeply you can build strong relationships with them.
Being professionally authentic might take some time and work, but your effort will pay off in spades and lead to a happier and more productive workplace before you know it!
How authentic are you at work? Join the conversation!