In today’s workplace, there’s been a big push for employers to value identity, and for employees to learn how to be authentic at work. It’s easy to see why: One study found that 61% of people admitted to covering up some part of their unique identity in the workplace, to the detriment of their self-esteem and well-being. Hiding our true selves at work can be costly for employers, too. Research suggests that when people cover up their identities, it can actually lead to more stress, lower work performance, and generally less satisfied, less effective employees.
For greater personal satisfaction, better work performance, and stronger relationships, spend some time considering how to be authentic at work.
Step 1: Get in Touch with Your Values
In order to reap of the benefits of being your true, authentic self in the workplace, you’ll need to find out who that person is. For some, this might not be so easy. You might have no problem being an authentic person with your friends and family, but somehow, talking to your boss isn’t quite the same as talking to your high school buddy over dinner. How do you bridge that gap? It’s time to get to know (and get comfortable with) your authentic work self, by considering your personal mission in all areas of your life.
Identify your core values. These are your fundamental beliefs: the deeply felt principles that guide your interactions, decisions, and actions on a daily basis. Some may value adventure; others positivity, frugality, or fun. Whatever yours are, write them down and read them over in the morning, before work or your big interview. Think about how your values translate into your day. Is loyalty one of your core values? Consider that as you gather around the water cooler to discuss your colleague’s embarrassing e-mail.
Step 2: Share, but Carefully
Once you’ve started to learn how to be authentic, it’s time to share that authentic person with people at work. Trust, friendship, and loyalty are built as colleagues get to know each other’s true selves: so let your colleagues in on what is lighting you up at the moment. Sharing a few photos from a weekend hike or your brilliant idea for your son’s birthday party will help your colleagues see your authentic self. But be aware of your audience and careful about oversharing: not every colleague will want to hear about your latest health concern or issues disciplining your teenage daughter.
Reflect on your work experiences: Do you under-share or over-share? If you have a trusted colleague or mentor, ask for their honest guidance. Do they feel that you share enough at work (or share too much)? Based on your own self-reflection and the accounts of others, focus on one way that you can build stronger relationships with your colleagues, by sharing the authentic person that you are.
Step 3. Keep it Truthful
Embellishment and exaggeration can be easy to fall back on in the workplace, especially if you’re feeling vulnerable in an interview or a new job. However, you’ll do serious damage to your reputation if your lie is exposed down the road, and even if it’s not, you’ve missed out on an opportunity to showcase your authentic self. So curb that impulse to boast about your impeccable social media skills, and stick to only true stories.
The next time you have the urge to embellish a story, take a step back and ask yourself, “Why?” Are you trying to gain approval from colleagues? Hoping to land your dream job? Softening the blow during a performance review? Hopefully you can stop yourself in the moment, and you’ll have time to reflect later on how to be authentic in your response.
Step 4. Be Careful With Jargon
Every industry has their own vocabulary, and every company has their catchphrases. Whether you’re “getting your ducks in a row,” “throwing a curveball,” or putting a “coversheet on your TPS report,” beware the overuse of these phrases. Even if you are living in line with your core values, you may be viewed as inauthentic and fake if you rely on these phrases too much in your day-to-day language. Your colleagues will thank you for your clear communication, and your authentic personality will shine through.
Make it a point to notice jargon when it is escapes your mouth, and when you do, think about how you can personalize it with your own words. If you hear yourself saying, “This new website is a game-changer,” follow it up with what you are really trying to communicate. “I mean, I’m just so happy with the way it turned out.”
Step 5. Own Your Mistakes
It’s never easy to admit you were wrong, especially when your livelihood is tied to your work performance. The good news is, you are being your true authentic self when you can gracefully accept and take responsibility for the errors that you make on the job.
Practice the art of taking responsibility for small things. Instead of saying, “Sorry I’m late, the traffic was terrible,” try “Sorry I’m late. I cut it too close.” It might feel strange at first, but notice how you feel and the reactions that you receive.
As you learn how to be authentic in the workplace, take note of your personal satisfaction at work. Let us know how it goes in the comments below!