Authenticity at Work: 11 Strategies to Be Your Authentic Self at Work
Updated: May 8
Being authentic at work means being self-aware, unbiased in evaluating yourself, behaving in a way that aligns with your strengths and values, and being open and sincere in relationships with others. It involves embracing who you are and bringing your uniqueness forward to add value to your role in ways that only you can. When you are more authentic at work and are able to create space for others to be more authentic as well, it can lead to increased job satisfaction, improved health and well-being, stronger relationships, and more creativity and innovation.
If you'd like to get some feedback on how you're doing at 'thriving as yourself' at work, take this assessment.
I've spent most of my life exploring what 'thriving as yourself' looks like, and across different contexts, including work environments. I invite you to learn more about me and the coaching work I do, because I can help you to bring more of your authentic self to work, and to create the space for others to step more fully into themselves as well.
What Does Authenticity Mean?
Authenticity is about the truth of who one "really" is. It's a very deep exploration philosophers have been investigating for thousands of years.
Who are you, really?
There are a lot of layers, certainly. One activity I love that explores this is having an opportunity to ask this question, over and over again, in the company of different people, without them responding. People often start with the roles they play "I'm a mother, a wife, a daughter, a leader..." after time, people start to describe their values or who they are in and across those roles. "I value family, I am loving..."
Social psychologists Kernis and Goldman (2006) published a helpful framework to understand the key components of authenticity, which includes four components:
1. Self-awareness: possessing, and being motivated to increase, knowledge of and trust in one's own motives, desires, feelings, emotional states, preferences, strengths, traits, etc.
2. Unbiased processing: Objectivity and clarity in evaluating your strengths and weaknesses without defensiveness, denial or blame allows for an accurate sense of self.
3. Behavior: "Acting in ways congruent with your own values, preferences, and needs, as opposed to acting 'falsely' merely to please others or to attain rewards or avoid punishments."
4. Relational orientation: "Valuing and striving for openness, sincerity, and truthfulness in one's close relationships." Being genuine and not ‘'fake’' in one’s relationships with others.
At its core, authenticity is about living an honest and true existence. Authentic people recognize that they are a work in progress and don't apologize for being imperfect or for learning and evolving. It is about embracing who you are and expressing your individuality, beliefs, and feelings in a way that leads to positive growth, joy, and meaningful connections with those around you.
What is Authentic Leadership?
In the early 2000s, in response to dwindling trust in organizations and a readiness to prepare for a dynamic future, there was a big push for a new kind of leadership that would address this head-on.
In Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value, Bill George wrote: "Authentic leaders demonstrate a passion for their purpose, practice their values consistently, and lead with their hearts as well as their heads. They establish long-term, meaningful relationships and have the self-discipline to get results."
George wrote in a 2007 HBR article: “Leadership has many voices. You need to be who you are, not try to emulate somebody else.”
Reflecting and unpacking your own path and lived experience helps to create more awareness of how you've got to where you are and who you've been along the way.
However, an authentic leader is not static. Because there is an ever-evolving nature to the self, an authentic leader learns, unlearns, and relearns, and is open to who they may be becoming due to the ever-evolving nature of the work itself.
Authentic leaders are not just born, they can be made. Anyone can become an authentic leader by increasing self-awareness, having a clear understanding of their values and beliefs, and taking actions and making choices that align with those values and beliefs.
11 Strategies To Be More Authentic In The Workplace
Here are some tips for being more authentic at work:
1. Identify your strengths and bring them forward
Think about what you're really good at and what you enjoy doing.
Do you love connecting people?
Are you great at solving complex problems?
Do you enjoy managing projects?
Get clear on what your biggest strengths are and get better at leveraging them in everyday situations.
An activity to try:
For one day, pick a strength of yours and focus on bringing it forward in everything you do.