Inside the workplace, authenticity can sometimes feel like a double-edged sword. While expressing honest opinions and true personality can be perceived as superior over putting on a front, in some cases, it has the power to harm reputations. If authentic behaviour is taken the wrong way, poorly timed, or controversial, it can be difficult to regain social standing in the office. However, no successful professional has ever blazed a trail by watering down his or her personality. Authenticity is vital for workplaces to continue to innovate and grow, but is often discouraged in favour of order.
Does your company welcome authenticity in its employees?
During the interview process, it’s common for potential hires to be asked to talk about themselves, and to discuss how they handle pressure. These questions are all deeply personal, and can provide great insight into what an individual is truly like. They can also be difficult to answer, as interviewees can often wonder where the line between personal and professional is.
While many think that a professional front is required at all times on the job, what do the numbers tell us? A study has found that the more employees feel they are aligned with their authentic selves in the workplace, the higher their job satisfaction, performance, and engagement will be.
To explore the phenomenon of workplace authenticity, Plasticity Labs got together with Wilfred Laurier University social psychologist Dr. Anne Wilson to survey two hundred and thirteen workers. By harnessing the power of quantitative and qualitative research methods, the partnership gained in depth research on workplace authenticity, job satisfaction, company culture, and more. Here’s what they found:
Authenticity by the Numbers
- 72% of participants claimed they exhibit workplace authenticity after an average of two to three months.
- Within this number, 60% claimed they only became authentic once they reached three months at an office.
- 22% said they became authentic by nine months.
- 9% said it occurred between 10-12 months.
- Another 9% said it took more than a year to act like their genuine selves at work.
Additional Findings from the Study
Workplace norms such as dress codes were found to limit employee’s freedom to feel comfortable in behaving like their honest selves. Furthermore, employees who did not adhere to a dress code believed that authenticity is crucial in the workplace. Employees who claimed that they felt authentic at work reported much higher job satisfaction, a strong workplace community, higher levels of inspiration, and lower levels of job-related stress.
Additionally, 80% of workers who claimed they behaved authentically believed that it improved their productivity, performance, and lessened the burden of having to censor their true personalities. The employees also stated that authenticity allowed them to form genuine bonds that were based on trust with fellow coworkers and clients.
However, it is worth noting that not all respondents reported positive feelings towards behaving authentically. In fact, 10% thought it to be potentially harmful, as differences in personalities could have a damaging effect on the ability to produce effective work between team members. Characteristics such as sarcasm or assertiveness were claimed to be dangerous, as coworkers could misunderstand them. Within these inauthentic participants, 30% believed acting genuine would make their workplace better, but 64% thought the opposite. The latter group claimed that in their work environments, showing stress and emotion was judged negatively by their peers. They also believed that authentic employees run the risk of overstepping their boundaries by saying offensive things in the name of being honest.
The research showed that those who felt authenticity to be inappropriate in the workplace worked at companies where it was not encouraged. This finding only highlights the legitimate importance of fostering inclusive work environments. Overall, it was shown that authenticity does have a major impact on workplace satisfaction, and every CEO knows that content employees perform higher.
To encourage authenticity in your workplace, start from the top. Leaders decide company culture, and by performing their duties in an authentic manner, those in positions of power can set an example for other employees. By ensuring that employees feel comfortable staying true to themselves, you can empower your workforce and watch job satisfaction grow.