By Juliette Austin, Founder of FrankEvan’s Consulting
Authenticity – it’s a very popular and aspirational buzzword. Anything that is deemed to be authentic is the most desired. As individual beings, who wouldn’t want to be seen as being authentic?
In actuality, a lot of us spend most of our days being inauthentic or covering parts of our identity- especially those within historically underrepresented groups.
Trying to succeed in any work environment and culture often means some degree of compromise is expected. Despite diversity and inclusion efforts, there’s a perceived mold to try and fit into. So our authentic selves are checked at the door. Being sure to shift our personality and body language to appear agreeable, maintaining a smile, or trying to shrink ourselves to not stand out.
We compromise our values and beliefs by not offering up our opinions or ideas. Some of us scrutinize over our hair (straightened vs. natural), or obsess over our outfit choices (pencil skirt or blue pantsuit). Always conscious of the stereotypes pointed our way and being fearful that we will be judged based on them. Over time it’s downright exhausting. Eventually our mental, physical, and spiritual health takes a hit.
While many organizations are engaging in inclusion work to enable work cultures to be more accepting of our authentic selves, there’s still lots more work to do and it takes time. And while they take that time to learn and evolve, you too can put forward a few steps to reclaim more of your true self during your everyday workplace existence.
Have a realistic understanding of yourself
Become very self aware. Be clear on your motivations and goals. Know what your personal triggers are, emotions, likes and dislikes. Be grounded enough to recognize and articulate it.
Build and nurture a strong relationship with your manager
The more your manager is able to learn and understand you; the more support, advocacy, and guidance can be offered with less subconscious engagement of unspoken rules, office norms, and biases to make judgements on.
Have courage and become comfortable with taking some degree of limited risk
Just because it seems everyone in the office is clean shaven doesn’t always mean you couldn’t sport a beard. It’s totally possible that no one wanted to be the first to break the trend and they might thank you for it.
Be aware and adjust to organizational and cultural context
At times, the situation will dictate expectations. You may naturally be an energetic, straightforward, and engaging person but your new foreign clients may not be so amused.
Brand yourself as a genuine and honest person
Stay in line with your integrity and others will come to appreciate you for it. If not, that’s a clue letting you know what future decisions you may need to make for yourself.
Have a sense of humor
Sometimes brevity in the appropriate situation is the perfect tool to build community and relationships. Opening the door to allow a little more of your true self (and others) to come through.
Don’t hide your flaws
No one is perfect nor expects you to be perfect. Acknowledge when something is not in your wheelhouse and seek to learn or find support to help you through it.
Leverage and nurture your toolchest
Your board of advisors, mentors, coaches, and peers are there to keep you accountable and advocate for you. They are also there to pick you back up when it gets tough.
Recognize and have faith in yourself and your abilities
You deserve respect and have everything you need to be an active and valuable contributor to the team.
Do your best to deliver great work
Build your credibility, reliability, and teaming skills to deliver quality work. Keep the conversation and focus on how you’re a great asset to the team and your input is sought after.
If you don’t like being judged; then you shouldn’t judge others
In wanting to fit in, sometimes we will adopt the very oppressive behaviors that constrained our own authenticity. Transformational culture change starts with each person consciously doing better. Be the change you want to see.
Bottom line is, who you are is not always who you get to be at work. But giving yourself permission to create some space to allow more of yourself to show up is possible. You will be happier for it and the organization gains a more engaged employee.