Authenticity in the Workplace

Do you find you are a different person at work than you are at home, you know wearing a “work-mask”? Having a hard time being yourself at work because you don’t feel safe from judgment and/or rejection? Do you catch yourself saying “yes” to things to avoid conflict and or criticism?

Playing it safe or being fake at work will stop you from experiencing real joy in your life, guaranteed.  We spend more than half our lives in the workplace and as Brené Brown said in her “The Call to Courage” talk, “never have I seen or interviewed a single person in 20 years that had a joyful wholehearted life that was miserable at work”. If you are not yourself, if you don’t dare to speak your truth and exercise self-respect (professionally and or personally), then you are cheating yourself and others from living a purposeful life that can truly make a difference.

“Be yourself, everybody else is already taken”
Oscar Wilde

There’s no way you can be truly motivated, have job satisfaction and be fully committed to your organization if you are not yourself.

Now depending on your generational upbringing, many of us have been conditioned to portray that ‘everything is good’. That we have our shit together, because if we do then we have a handle on what we call life. LOL! I laugh because that is the biggest joke! I mean who has it all together? I don’t. Do you know for sure anybody that has mastered life?  We all have stuff to deal with. Whether it’s a crap load of debt, a sick family member, self-image issues due to excess weight, a job we hate, personal sickness, self-esteem issues due to past bullying or from a dysfunctional upbringing, a nasty separation with someone you loved. I mean I can go on… but can we simply remember that we are all human beings, trying to make a difference and trying to make a living? In fact, our growing workforce which includes millennials and post-millennials no longer accepts authority unquestionably. They expect direct feedback, clear expectations, no mind and blame games and they want to be able to be themselves!

Can we come back to basics and treat each other with respect? Can someone who lacks courage, lean in and dare to speak up when things are not right? We need you to do that. Can someone who wants to control and manage everything speak honestly about their fear and allow others to do their part? We need you to calm down and have faith. We can no longer stay quiet and pretend that all is good, because it’s not. We can no longer say our workforce is toxic, we have to realize that we are contributing to its toxicity. Patrick Lencioni explains on his “Conflict Continuum” model that most companies are experiencing “artificial harmony”. Most people are pretending all is good instead of having the courage to have constructive conflict.

I hope this blog in itself is deepening some self-awareness and inspiring you to be more of yourself.

Three things you can do to create authenticity in the workplace.

Here are some simple and highly effective things you can start doing at work.

1. Create a Judgment-Free Zone

Avoid all self-judgment and the judgment of others. Instead of judging yourself, learn from your experiences. So if you wanted to share your opinion in a meeting but you ended up being too scared to do so, don’t start by telling yourself “I’m a damn wimp, or my opinion doesn’t matter anyways”. Instead congratulate yourself for being aware of your fear and do everything you can to prepare yourself for your next meeting.

Read articles on “how to share my opinion in a meeting”. Talk to your boss about your fear. Dare to be vulnerable.

Now if you judge others or gossip and/or speak badly about someone else, STOP that! It’s frickin immature and feeds the toxicity in the workplace.  Just before you are about to trash someone, realize you are doing it to feel better about yourself. In addition, whatever you are judging another person on, you are most likely blinded on the fact that you have done or will do the very similar thing you are judging others on. To make you feel better… been there done that. As a professional speaker, I remember a few years back judging other speakers for not being prepared, talking on a point way too long, being way too scripted and not authentic. LOL! I’ve been all of those things prior to and after the judgment. We tend to forget, we have all sorts of “bad” traits too. We just do it in that moment because we need to feel better. So, STOP the judgment!

2. Know your Triggers:

Now the tricky part about being authentic at work is that you need to know yourself more and more. And guess what, the more authentic you become, the more intimate you become with your emotions. Ugh! Emotions at work. Yep!

Now I’m sure some of you are thinking, “so if I’m pissed at someone on my team, can I be authentic and yell out my frustrations to them?” Uh no. Instead, identify what triggers you by noticing and observing your reactions to things. And apply the Golden Rule of Triggers, which is “No matter what you are compelled to do, don’t do it!”. Do everything to resist the act of REACTING. If you’re compelled to lash out, take a deep breath, bring focus to your feet, toes, the balls of your feet and your heels. This quick practice brings you back in your body and out of the visceral experience of threat.

Now if you’re compelled to run away, stay engaged as much as you can. Lean in.

3. Begin a difficult conversation with vulnerability

If you’re like me, you want to avoid difficult conversations at all cost because you are afraid of conflict and have very little faith that you can handle the conflict. Well the good news is there is a way to start a conversation that will decrease the other person’s defensive response. The bad news is, that you cannot escape conflict or feelings of discomfort when being authentic and vulnerable. It’s just part of reality and is the greatest way to increase your courage and confidence.  Dare to be awesome. This next technique can set you up for success!

One of my professional friends calls this “permission-based feedback.” You want to ask the person if it’s a good time to share something very difficult with them.

Example: Let’s say you want to tell your boss that you are overwhelmed and behind with work because you’ve been assigned way too many projects. You could start your conversation like this, “Hi there _______. I have something to talk to you about that is causing me much anxiety and quite frankly, I’m really nervous to share this with you. Would this be a good time for us to talk?”

Here you’ve got beautiful vulnerability and authenticity in your request and you are also checking to see if the timing is good for your boss. Your vulnerability is decreasing the defensive response your boss could have and if they say yes, you are beginning your difficult conversation with courage, caring and openness from your boss.

Workplaces need you to be courageous, authentic and vulnerable for it to get better.  Choose courage over comfort and make an effort on a daily basis to make that conscious choice. As Brené Brown stated in her talk,  “The Call to Courage”, we have to choose courage over comfort as it is the only sure way we can access creativity, innovation, effective and ethical decision making, problem solving, inclusivity diversity, trust and empathy. A dream we can make reality in the workplace and it all begins with YOU.

Be strong, be bold, get your ass kicked and get up again to be an even more powerful and purposeful human being.


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