In an earlier article, we discussed how being authentic at work is essential, but how excessive authenticity could lead to less than desirable results. Here are a few more pointers to keep in mind while practicing authenticity at work.
- Before being non-conformist, build trust
Before you deviate from the group norms to reveal your non-conforming views or behavior, find ways to demonstrate your loyalty and build trust. This is called building “idiosyncrasy credit.” Adam Grant shares the story of Carmen, who was unable to find takers for her suggestion to use the internet more effectively within the CIA, until she first proved her credibility and competence in various vital roles.
- When you show individuality, don’t forget empathy
Many professionals see the idea of being authentic at work as an opportunity to stop sugarcoating what they want to say. Indeed, bluntness has a place in the corporate world, but most leaders agree that we need to leave room for empathy too. CEO Tanya Dockendorf recommends being direct, with caveats. But remember to pay close attention to your tone and ensure that your feedback includes clear and concrete instances. As Adam Grant says, authenticity without empathy is selfish.
- Be true to your authentic self, but remember your other authentic selves too
Herminia Ibarra, organizational behavior professor at London Business School, brings home yet another valuable point – sometimes, staying true to yourself can make you too rigid and unable to evolve into a better version of your previous self. Instead, she recommends moving out of your comfort zone, exploring new ways of doing things, and broadening the horizons of what it means to be you. For instance, while it may seem more like you to stick to facts and figures while making a presentation, try starting with a story or anecdote if it helps you to connect with your audience better.
Final notes: broadening the scope of authenticity to build genuine connections
As we model authenticity in our interactions at work, we will slowly come to realize that authenticity takes on forms beyond candid self-expression.
In some cases, it could be about choosing not to disclose something completely but about sharing necessary details mindfully with your colleagues. For instance, you could explain that you are going through a personal upheaval and you would prefer to compartmentalize it, while also acknowledging that everyone has differing needs and behaviors in such a situation. It also helps to clearly explain how your crisis might impact your work and the time you spend at the office. Share how your peers can support you in this period, be it by taking on some extra duties or responsibilities or simply considering it business as usual unless you reach out.
In other cases, it could be more about reaching out with genuine care and concern. A kind word of comfort when someone reveals that their child is sick, or extra time off for a subordinate to recover from a traumatic experience, or even listening to someone as they voice a concern – every single one of these acts extends your commitment to authenticity at work.