“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You!” Dr. Seuss
A recent study revealed hat 75% of workers cover up some part of their identity at work. In addition, hiding your true self at work is linked with lower job satisfaction and can lead to lower productivity and disengagement. Thus, it’s critical to promote workplace authenticity and bring out the best in employees’ creativity and work ethic within the framework of your organization’s culture.
How do you balance your individual strengths while working in a team environment? Can you be true to yourself and still move up the corporate ladder? Or should you heed the career advice given during annual reviews to mold yourself into the career persona your company admires to get that next promotion? Being authentic takes courage and sincerity.
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When I was in my 20’s, I took my annual reviews very serious. I skimmed the page of accolades and accomplishments and poured over the short paragraph entitled “Weaknesses/Opportunities for Development”. I developed action plans to correct these gaps and diligently addressed it in my one-on-ones.
In my 30’s, I was given the advice “don’t worry too much about your weaknesses, just focus on your strengths.” Hmm… this advice seemed more palatable. I was getting stressed out trying to “fix” parts of my personality, plus the points were different depending upon the manager writing the review. I concentrated on strategic planning and execution, creative problem resolution and building relationships. I benefited tremendously from the advice and encouragement of a wise mentor.
In my 40’s, I was encouraged to expand my skill set by trying new roles in different industries. The risk paid off and my career took off. I became a stronger leader by embracing change and allowing my inner essence to shine. I talked openly about the challenges of being a single working mother, a dialog that was encouraged by some my male counterparts, but scoffed by others. I hit my stride by learning social media, developing a systematic approach to change management and transforming organizations. I found the courage to embrace what makes me different and inspired others by pushing away fear and opening up to diverse experiences. I built a strong professional network, fueled by social media, and found career guidance from formal and informal mentors, sponsors and reverse mentors.
Feedback is a gift. Embrace it- regardless of your age or stage of your career. Most importantly, consider how you can advance your career by being your “best self” every day. Yes, it’s a gamble to be authentic in the workplace, and things don’t always work out as planned. I see colleagues who’ve been burned and show “selective authenticity”, but truly the best thrive on being authentic all the time. A mentor once told me that, “like-minded, authentic people can move mountains.” So powerful!
Is authenticity valued in your workplace? What leaders do you admire for modeling authenticity? How do you let your authentic self shine while continuing to grow in the work you love to do?