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Being authentic at work

Last Updated : 19 January 2021, 07:10 IST
Last Updated : 19 January 2021, 07:10 IST

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Recently a good friend came to spend a few days with me during the work from home arrangement. We work in the same organisation and have gotten close to each other over the years.

The other day she remarked, “You just seem a different person at home, with your family around!”

In another casual conversation with my spouse, I remember boasting, “Oh, you have no idea of who I am as a professional! You should see me at work!”

Have you noticed that you act quite different at home and work? Have you wondered why this is the case?

Every individual’s behaviour is guided by their values, beliefs, and life experiences.

We are often able to thrive in environments when we have the freedom and space to be our own true selves. It is easier to feel satisfaction and fulfilment by being authentic. However, at the workplace, it can be quite hard to speak our minds and act based on what we truly believe in.

We try to fit into the crowd, say things that are politically correct and frequently yield to what society expects from us.

There are several reasons we might do this — to avoid being seen as a person who is difficult to work with, to please the people around us, due to low self-confidence or a past experience of being shot down for having a differing viewpoint.

Fear of failure and accountability

When we stop being authentic, we often become filled with anxiety, feel stressed out, and constantly worry about the ‘right’ way to be.

This pattern slowly results in a reduced commitment to the organisation or the team, and eventually, an urge to switch jobs.

By being authentic, you gain the trust of your colleagues and supervisor. Your actions demonstrate a certain level of consistency and integrity, which in turn makes you a reliable employee, team member and leader.

You make it unnecessary to read between the lines, which clears up a lot of space to invest in the task at hand, as opposed to figuring out what was left unsaid.

You feel good. You have fewer things to be anxious about, you are less exhausted at the end of the day and have the mental space to engage in other things on a given day.

When you live your values and act in alignment with your beliefs, there are fewer regrets overall. It helps you feel a sense of accomplishment at work.

Finding your voice

Keep a journal to document your emotions at the end of every day. Label those emotions, and go beyond complex ones such as anger, happy, sad, grumpy.

Ask yourselves what incident triggered each emotion. In particular, note down what makes you feel content, fulfilled, gratified.

Compare these positive instances with the times when you felt isolated, suffocated, let down or stressed. This might help you uncover what matters the most to you.

Now, list down the non-negotiables when it comes to others’ actions, words, and thought process at the workplace. It might help to list what you won’t say or do, along with what others should not say or do to you.

Authentic employees and organisational success

In a world where multicultural teams have become the norm, it is critical that organisations pay attention to the culture they are fostering. We need to be aware and sensitive about the multitude of values and beliefs that people bring to the workplace.

Create an open culture

Keep the systems and processes as transparent as possible so the employees are in the know of the non-negotiables. Open culture could manifest in the form of flat hierarchies, multiple channels of communication, and all the policies stated explicitly without any hidden clauses.

Create a sense of belonging

When individuals feel like they are part of the larger fabric you are weaving as an organisation it becomes so much easier for the employees to be authentic. The team then becomes collaborative as opposed to being competitive.

Psychological well-being

At the heart of being authentic is trust. It is important to communicate to people that their well-being is placed at high importance in line with organisational goals.

Universal values such as respect for one another and the environment, dignity of labour, fair and ethical policies provide the needed safety net for employees to feel safe at work.

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Published 19 January 2021, 07:01 IST

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