Is authenticity really possible at work?
Authenticity is part of who we are
I usually speak a lot about authenticity as an attribute in leadership, but actually what I believe is, that authenticity is, or it should be part of who we are. More specific showing ourselves as who we are.
And that’s because I consider we are not more people – one at the office, one at home, one playing with the children, one going shopping, etc. We are a whole person, complete and complex, no matter what we do. Yes, we behave differently in different contexts, we use different skills to perform different activities (usually not the same when we are at the office and when we go camping), different ways of measuring performance and/ or expectations (most likely we don’t put KPIs to our family members🙂), but in the essence, we are one.
And, like it or not, wherever we go or whatever we do, we take ourselves with us.
I receive more and more this question lately- Is it really possible to be authentic at work? We have corporate rules, we need to keep the business etiquette, follow procedures, behave in a certain way, etc.
Well, it is possible, and I actually believe it’s a must for us as individuals.
There are many definitions of authenticity, but in the essence, they all resume to being real or true, undisputed credibility, truthfulness of origins, attributions, commitments, and intentions. In existentialism, authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures. But there are many more personal interpretations, which are equally valuable. I liked the idea of “harmony” that someone used as referring to authenticity meaning that–
we are on the outside as we are on the inside. For me, it simply means staying true to your values.
Which doesn’t imply rejecting the other’s values, but choosing to live under our own code, without automatically conforming to believes or norms in an unconscious way.
So why wouldn’t it be possible at work?
Work is where we spend most of our time in a day, so is it really feasible to try being someone else all the time? Staying true to your own values and to whom you really are doesn’t mean bending the rules, or unfollow procedures because staying true it’s about being, not doing.
We usually are very much focused on what we do, leaving aside who we are, or we even believe they are one and the same.
- We have one side that we show to the world which is more “what we are” or the person I want you to see – the job I have, the title, the status, the confidence, the self-control
- and another side for us, which is “who we are” or the person I see – how do I feel, who I really am, whom/ what do I love, what is important to me, who am I when nobody’s looking.
The reality is that the bigger the gap between the 2, the more unhappy we are. Trying constantly to be someone we are not, it’s equally frustrating and exhausting and never fulfilling.
To lower the gap, we need to find out first of all who we really are, and this is the biggest and most rewarding process. The way to being authentic starts always with the question “Who am I?”. Knowing who we are always makes it easier to act, or more fairly said, makes it more natural to act. Because it’s also easy to act without asking why, or many times we even run away in our “busy-ness” to escape reflection and facing ourselves. But starting from being and going towards doing, brings us balance and inner harmony.
So, how does this work at the office?
Being at work doesn’t mean losing oneself. As I mentioned above, we bring ourselves with us to work every day. Coming as myself it’s not in contradiction with following corporate protocol, or any other job protocol, but it makes me more aware of what is my role there and gives the chance of a more honest and critical evaluation of me fitting into that role, meaning if the job it’s really aligned with my values.
How many times did we write in our CV adaptability as one of our qualities? I did so many times, as I believed it’s looking good there and I actually believed it for quite a while. Now I see the idea of “fitting” much more accurate.
We don’t need to adapt ourselves to fit the job, we need to adapt the job to fit us. It’s true that we need to be adaptable to changes, but personally, I see that more towards wisdom and evolution.
As we all seek meaning in life, work is also part of that. Having a purpose in work is so important, as how we act and what we do is only a reflection of who we are.
If we see work only as something that we need to do, only as a source of income, leave it completely separate from our “life” and our “meaning”, then we have high chances to suffer from that. Why take out the meaning from so many hours of each day we live? And nowadays I see more and more people looking for meaningful work, which in my opinion is great. It’s kind of difficult to “separate” life and work, simply because our life is not just something that we leave at the door when entering the company and then taking it again in the evening when we go home.
Right people in the right place
And that is equally important for organizations to take into consideration. It is said that the most performant teams are the ones who have the “right people” in the “right place”. Which means having the best possible match between the person and the job. You know that great organizational charts with nice boxes, right? Well, names fit perfectly in boxes, people just don’t. We have the tendency to create “boxes” – which can be standards, rules, objectives, way of doing things, way of behaving, etc., and then try to tell people they need to adapt and fit in that box. And if this doesn’t work, we consider it’s an issue with that person, and try to “adapt” him/ her even more or look for a replacement.
Many successful organizations managed to change that, as they realized that finding the people who best fit with a job, increases not only the productivity but also people engagement, simply because what people do is in alignment with who they are.
Being able to be authentic is a given gift; is better to simply live it.
And being who we are is not against development and evolution. On the contrary, it gives the freedom to consciously choose the way we evolve.
So instead of “adapting” to work, how about looking from a different angle?
How can I use my skills to do a better work?
- Fear of disappointing vs constant need to please
Let’s talk about a compassionate, overwhelming, but reversible state of our human essence, the fear of being a disappointment for others, including ourselves.
Being a people pleaser is affecting our lives seriously. Really!
Worry and suspicion about being a disappointment to others feel to be very real, unavoidable, and a central part of the inner self.
Some of us intuitively experience this belief buried inside, as a pattern or deep toxic programming. But some of us don’t realize it, and we keep pleasing others as our life purpose.
Our concern is not just about the feelings of significant others, but also of our business partners, team, and manager.
This feeling defines our early life interactions with parents, teachers, and later relationships. We continuously try to please others and not to feel and be perceived as the wrong person. This means we are looking for acceptance, recognition, and validation.
This circumstance involves many feelings and emotions such as fear of rejection and fear not to match to other’s expectations. Trying hard to fit in their standards and working tough to please other plans could bring us more unhappiness than success.
Because sometimes, we conceive our heartbreaks through our expectations or what we think about others’ preferences.
Worrying about disappointing others is a confirmation that we care about them, which is a good thing. However, it’s hard to make anyone else happy, because everyone we meet will have different expectations about themselves.
Living our life to think about letting others down would keep us from achieving real happiness for ourselves.
This insight changes the way we have understood the world.
With such a significant change in thought needed, how would these feelings about not disappointing others be decreased?
We must be interested in exploring new ways of thinking about our early experience. Thoughts that once made sense to us had to be mirrored and reassessed.
Even if we can’t emotionally consider a different mindset in the first place, it’s essential to start critically thinking about what we feel about our memories, feelings, and perceptions.
If you can imagine, this is the hard way. But having me by your side as a coach will simplify and shorten the process.
Are you ready to start living your life to the fullest?