The benefits of being authentic in the workplace, and how to be more genuine at work.
What do we mean by the statement “Bring your authentic self to work”?
Workplace culture and employee experience programs reinforce the imperative to provide an environment that is free from all forms of discrimination.
There is no place for racial, religious, sexual, ethnic and any other potential bias or unfair treatment of others.
After all, employees should be evaluated based upon their technical contribution and ability to partner with peers from all walks of life.
This notion of meritocracy equates to an environment of inclusion and active support for a diverse world.
Underlying this is a framework that should be basic to all humankind.
Respect for differences should get characterised by working to preserve one’s dignity.
Respecting people does not mean the absence of disagreements.
Conflict and heated debate should be encouraged in the spirit of striving for best teaching and best solutioning.
Keep in mind that diverse cultures argue and defend themselves in different ways. Not better, just different.
Now step back and ask yourself how you behave when you are angry at your peers or direct reports.
Perhaps they made mistakes, or are not aligned with your way of thinking, or they are slow to the mark or uniquely interface with the world.
Sadly for many, we may be intolerant, and frustration leads to a communication style that is less than stellar.
Of course, tight timelines, crises, outages, economic downturns make us skittish, and we are at risk of not showing up as our best selves.
One of my clients said it best, “On that day I went home and could not look at myself in the mirror. I was not proud of my behavior.”
Unless you are a unicorn, likely every one of us could look back on a moment of shame. Own this.
If you choose not to, I would suggest you try being truthful with yourself.
We all have lost it at some point in our careers.
As a leader, you want to create a culture where employees feel safe. Safe to make mistakes, safe to innovate, safe take risks.
Do you play a pivotal role In creating a climate that allows employees to bring their authentic self to work?
How we talk to others, our tone, volume, words we choose should be a teaching moment that reinforces good intent.
If you do not understand a person’s culture, ethnicity, openly declared sexual identity, then you do have a choice.
When you lack awareness or when something is foreign rather than express negative bias, the better choice is to seek to understand.
To bridge differences and create understanding, you require three things:
- A desire to learn,
- A demonstration of empathy,
- An ability to apologise.
Anything less, and you will discriminate.
It is easy to repeat a company’s mantra regarding diversity and inclusion. Quite frankly, anyone can do that.
Are you truly a leader who promotes authenticity? If not, you will fool no one.
If you are a genuinely authentic leader, then you have a responsibility to inform and educate others.
For those of you who have an abysmal report card think deeply about your value set.
How do you want to be remembered?
Hopefully not just as a great leader but rather a respected citizen of the world.