It pays to put your best foot forward on the job. But, that doesn’t mean that you should be phony or inauthentic. It’s hard to connect with others if you’re hiding behind a mask all workday long.
But what does it mean to be yourself? Some may worry that this is license to behave impulsively or to be rude, negative or cruel to others. You can be true to yourself while still making an effort to be careful and intentional with your words and actions. Be yourself — but be your best self — when you’re at work. You can aim to speak and act with integrity as well as authenticity.
Why is it so tough to be authentic at work anyway? After all, you spend a ton of time there and you know what you’re doing. But, it’s easy enough to fall into the habit of disguising your true thoughts in an effort to impress others. Also, it can be hard to let down your guard. You might worry that you’ll come off as less professional, or maybe less capable, if you’re more authentic at work. But, that isn’t the case. In fact, just the opposite is probably true.
There are so many awesome rewards waiting for you once you’re ready to put away the false persona and be your true self at work more consistently. Here are just a few benefits to consider:
1. You won’t be so exhausted
It’s tiring to try to be someone you’re not. A recent study from Penn State and the University of Buffalo even found a correlation between faking a smile at work and after-hours drinking.
“Faking and suppressing emotions with customers was related to drinking beyond the stress of the job or feeling negatively,” said Alicia Grandey, professor of psychology at Penn State, speaking with Penn State News. “It wasn’t just feeling badly that makes them reach for a drink. Instead, the more they have to control negative emotions at work, the less they are able to control their alcohol intake after work.”
It takes energy to force yourself to act a certain way. Too much of this can leave you feeling stressed and drained.
Being yourself comes more naturally and therefore it isn’t nearly as exhausting as the alternative. Of course, this is easier in some jobs and for some people. But, no matter what your employment picture looks like, it might be better to work toward genuinely feeling more positive than simply continuing to fake it.
“Be sincere first,” said Annette Martinez, Senior Vice President for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Companies, in an interview with Forbes. (State Farm is working to advance their diversity and inclusion efforts through promoting authenticity at work.) “We all have tendencies in the business world of viewing everything as a policy, practice, or initiative. But, step back and be sincere about how you want to interact with the world before you wrap a program around it. For example, we use the Good Neighbor slogan in our branding. But, we also literally use it as way we interact with people—teammates, employees, customers, vendors, and the community. If you’re sincere, you’ll have an impact.”
Being friendly and positive at work can really help your career, but only when it’s real. Pretending to be full of energy and enthusiasm when you’re not will just leave you feeling exhausted.
2. Your work will be more aligned with your interests and passions
“Authenticity is more than speaking. It’s also about doing. Every decision we make says something about who we are.” – Simon Sinek
You might find that you make decisions a little differently once you’ve fully embraced the benefits of authenticity in the workplace. Instead of trying to please others, be it teammates, bosses, coworkers or clients, you’ll instead be focused on staying true to yourself. As a result, your work will eventually become more aligned with who you really are and it will probably make you happier, too.
Maybe you’ll invest a little extra time in a project that you really love, for example, and you’ll do a fantastic job. This could lead to you getting more work of this kind in the future. Your boss will notice your passion for the work and your effort.
Or, perhaps you’ll begin speaking up more during meetings once you emphasize being true to yourself at work. Maybe you’ll begin to share your perspective even when you know you’re in the minority. You’ll go against the grain when you really feel it’s right.
Being yourself at work will change the trajectory of your career. Your coworkers and your organization will benefit from your authentic perspective.
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3. You’ll do a better job
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom” – Thomas Jefferson
You’ll do a better job at work if you’re more yourself when you’re there. After all, authenticity just might be the key to professional success. You’ll work harder when you’re more connected to what you’re doing. You’ll find more opportunities that are right and exciting for you. And, you’ll give them your all.
“By being authentic, you will be drawn to roles and opportunities that you are truly passionate about, and you will proactively seek out work that is meaningful to you,” wrote Shaifali Aggarwal, founder of Ivy Groupe, at Forbes. “Therefore, if you are faced with challenges and obstacles, they will not deter you; on the contrary, you will be driven to overcome them and find solutions. This, in turn, will drive career success.”
It can be easy enough to fall into the habit of trying to play a part. But, you’ll be more present and more authentically engaged if you, the real you, is more grounded in the reality of your job while you’re there. Of course, you’ll still be professional, polite and kind. But, it’s okay to be yourself, too. Remember that your career will benefit when you do.
4. It will strengthen your relationships
Your professional relationships matter a great deal when it comes to your professional success. Obviously, it’s advantageous to get along well with the boss. And, having friends at work is good for your career, too. Having strong relationships with others can help you find job opportunities or new clients, get hired, learn new skills and so much more.
“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” – Dalai Lama
People respond well to authenticity. It inspires trust and it demonstrates a mature level of self understanding and confidence, too. Authentic behavior and communication also helps others feel safe and comfortable to express themselves freely, which builds and strengthens bonds.
Being yourself at work will help you to build better connections with others. That could do wonders for your career and for many other aspects and areas of your life as well.
5. you’ll learn more
Being yourself at work naturally lends itself to improved levels of engagement. And, more engagement leads to learning and professional improvement. It pays to focus on your job rather than on carefully projecting a false persona.
You’ll feel more consistently engaged when you’re yourself at work. You’ll have more energy and focus to give to the work itself — and to your own growth. Being authentic helps you to problem solve, and learn and grow. Researchers have found that teams that share authentic feelings more readily have greater viability and creativity. They’re able to work through negative experiences and challenges rather than avoid them.
Being excellent at your job is essential for career success. And continual growth and development is an essential component of excellence. The world is changing fast. It’s not always easy to keep up with all of the changes. Workers who can be themselves are better able to tap into the growth mindset that’s necessary for success at this time.
At the end of the day, being yourself at work isn’t just about speaking your mind and standing up for what you believe in. Rather, it’s about letting down your guard — and your professional mask — and relaxing into your role. Sincere engagement goes a long way at work. And, authenticity can help build and strengthen your professional relationships. You’ll be better at your job, and you’ll enjoy it more as well, when you move toward being more yourself at work.
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