The Daily Challenge: Authenticity
Stay true to your work self
Stay true to your work self.
Read Time: 3 Minutes
Being true to yourself feels good. As an added bonus to your career growth, it brings a sense of engagement and improves performance.
According to psychologist Erik Erikson, being authentic means being genuine in how you express yourself and acting in accordance with your thoughts, emotions, needs, and wants.
Applied to the workplace environment, authenticity can be about anything from expressing your sense of humor in the office, giving honest feedback to a coworker, or how you respond to your manager when they assign you a new project.
Of course, being authentic doesn’t mean choosing only one style to express yourself; we can have different behavior styles throughout many parts of our life. But all the variations of your chosen style can still express the “true you” and adhere to your values.
However, when that doesn’t happen and you find yourself contradicting your values or your truth, research shows it brings an unpleasant feeling of being dishonest and causes distress.
Even if you are normally authentic in the workplace, there might be cases when you felt like you needed to react a certain way.
For example, If a manager pitched a new idea and you were the one who was asked to execute it, you might have felt obligated to show eagerness to take on the project, even if you thought you had a lot on your plate, or that the idea was not the best solution for an existing problem.
Reflect back to a time when your reaction to a new project or idea felt contradictory to what you actually felt and thought about it.
Step 1: Describe why that reaction felt contradictory. Did you show enthusiasm even though you were feeling overwhelmed? DId you verbally support the project, even though you thought it wasn’t very important for the company? Did you take on a task, regardless of thinking it wasn’t the optimal solution?
Step 2. Why did you react in a non-authentic way? Describe a bad scenario you expected to happen if you have shared your truthful reaction. Did you think it was your responsibility to support the idea? Were you concerned with a potential unsatisfaction from your manager?
Step 3: Was there a way to avoid bad consequences while expressing a more sincere response? First, were your concerns in Step 2 realistic? Cognitive-behavioral psychologists point out a human tendency for “mindreading” — imagining the consequences and reactions that are not probable to happen.
If you think your concerns are realistic, try to identify the middle ground where you could be more authentic but address your concern. For example, could you express support for your manager’s idea, but mention you were running short on time in this quarter?
Pro-tip: List some of the benefits your authentic response could provide to your manager in the future. It could be setting a realistic expectation about the workload that you can get done this quarter. Another benefit might be that sharing productive feedback that everyone else is afraid to give could actually shift the project in the right direction.
Most Employees Feel Authentic at Work, but It Can Take a While (HBR)
Faking Your Emotions at Work (WorkLife with Adam Grant)
Unless You’re Oprah, ‘Be Yourself’ Is Terrible Advice. (NYT)
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