The term ‘authenticity’ in the workplace has almost become overused. But there is something behind the jargon – ideas that have been around for centuries that can help people in the workplace gain a sense of identity, honesty and passion.
Authenticity is about holding true to your values and principles; being aware of your core beliefs that are inherent to your work. However there is also a danger that this is used to justify our ‘bad day behaviours’ – for example, it’s OK to be angry and grumpy in a meeting because “that is just how I feel”. An important element of authenticity is also being honest about your emotional mindset and making sure that your behaviours are aligned to helping and supporting others. “I was just being honest” doesn’t necessarily mean being authentic, as it may involve being highly negative or hypercritical.
Authenticity is more important than ever, as 21st century employees perform their duties in often difficult and fluctuating markets. We may come into our day with best intentions be a good supportive colleague, but if the day shifts constantly and presents all kinds of demands, sometimes authentic desires can be challenged by the need to be defensive and reactive.
Here are a few reasons why authenticity will win the day:
Authenticity is sometimes all we have
Self-awareness is the key to tackling change and uncertainty – both characteristics of modern-day business. Knowing your values – who you are and what’s the right thing to do – is a key constant in helping to navigate when the deep mist of uncertainty prevails. At the end of a challenging day, we won’t always win, but if we can know we stayed true to our integrity and values, it will be more satisfying than the feeling we bent ourselves out of shape to get through it.
Authenticity means you are true to yourself
While there is sometimes nothing wrong with a big ego in the workplace, this can however lead to conflict and stress if inauthentic. You don’t have to act like someone you’re not to be a great leader or to do your job well. Yes, maybe add a few new tools in your tool belt and recognise what your team needs of you, but don’t change your core and don’t preoccupy yourself with how you are supposed to act. Team leaders at all levels often feel they have to have all the answers and ‘lead from the front’ – however sometimes it’s more effective to lead from the back or the middle.
Authenticity leads to true influence
Generally speaking, people will trust the intention of someone being authentic – if you think a colleague is being real and honest you are more likely to support them. In being able to ‘lift their veil’ and reveal their true selves, authentic people transfer humility, credibility and trust. People follow and are inspired by genuineness – not a front, no matter how positive it may be.
Authentic people don’t compromise in the short term
In a world increasingly impatient for results and demanding immediate outcomes, authenticity is continuously tested. The pressures of instant delivery versus longer-term values, goals and purpose are a true tension in itself.
Of course getting things done quickly and succeeding in the short-term doesn’t mean you can’t be authentic. However being authentic is knowing what can’t be compromised in the short term. Ultimately, your mindset for the day should mirror your mindset for the next year or five years. You need to consistently operate with authentic values, rather than constantly changing direction with the wind.
Dan Phillips is a facilitator at Insights Learning and Development