Authenticity is fundamental, not only in our personal lives, but also as professionals. It is critical to professional success and fulfillment. Being authentic in the workplace means feeling comfortable with peers, being able to share personal information and reflections that are appropriate and being able to comfortably ask for and receive advice.
However, there is a difference between authenticity and total transparency. Authenticity means to be genuine, true to yourself. Total transparency means letting everything hang out, oversharing, or crossing a professional line, and that can be detrimental in a professional setting. Taking transparency too far as a manager, for example, can cause you to lose the respect of your employees. How can you strike a balance when being authentic at work? Consider these three tips to help you get started.
Understand your professional image. What are your career values and goals? How would you describe yourself as a professional? Now consider if others in the workplace would offer up the same goals and description about you if they were asked. To make sure you are portraying the right image to your co-workers or employees, pay attention to your posture, body language, and how much of your personal life you share with them currently. Is it too much or the right amount? Ask a trusted colleague or mentor how they would describe you professionally, including your strengths and weaknesses.
Knowing these details about yourself will help you to avoid giving seemingly fake opinions. For example, if you are not aware that you are a detail-oriented person, telling your employee to complete a task however they think is best will come across as inauthentic, since you will most likely make adjustments to the project.
Work on your communication skills. When communicating, it’s not only important to determine the information we want to share, but also the way we share it. Be mindful of what details you share about yourself and others. Think before you speak, especially in a potentially touchy situation or regarding a difficult topic. You may find it helpful to write down what you want to say in advance or practice what you would say out loud with a partner.
When sharing in workplace conversation, take a moment to listen first to what others have to say. This build awareness about what is appropriate regarding conversation in your workplace setting and will help you not dominate the conversation. If you tend to undershare information, remember you don’t always have to talk about something personal. You can share information related to your industry that you have read, points from a recent conference or news article you enjoyed, or even just a recent movie you watched.
Share appropriate information. Some stories that would appropriate in a personal setting are not always appropriate in a business setting. Avoid sharing information that will make others uncomfortable or that would be offensive. Make sure that what you share will contribute to a pleasant work environment, not take away from it. If you’re uncertain if this is the case with something you are considering sharing, err on the side of caution and keep it to yourself. Your professional brand is a critical piece to your effectiveness as an employee, and you need to continue to be mindful of managing it successfully.