Five Ways to Be More Authentic At Work

Ever feel like you have to check your personality at the door when you go to work? It seems being "professional" means we cannot have a sense of humor, show emotion, or uniqueness. We just have to be boring. Or do we? 

My personality is not boring. In fact, I struggle so often when writing this blog. I feel like I have to check my "personality" at the virtual door when selecting post topics. When I read over my writing most of the time, I feel like it is boring. Of course I try to offer a unique angle on the subject I choose but that doesn't seem to satisfy the inner me.

Bloggers will tell you that your blog is not about you but about what your audience wants or needs. "Give them something to come back too." So when I write, I ask myself if my readership really wants to hear what I am about to say. Does it have value that will bring you back again.

The real struggle I am having is finding ways to be authentic in my work.

Authentic is a word that gets tossed around a lot in leadership circles. Here is one of the dictionary.com definitions of authentic:

Authentic: adj.  not false or copied; genuine; real

Am I pretending to be like other blogs I see with thousands of followers? Am I trying to be like other coaches I see with hundreds of clients?

If I am trying to be like someone else, then I am not being authentic.

Do you put on a mask at work in order to fit in? That means you are spending 8 or more hours of your day pretending or being false. Want to know a secret? That's exhausting! The key is figuring out how to be more authentic little by little at work.

How to be more authentic at work

Be Honest with Yourself

Be honest with yourself and the ways in which you feel false. Are people pressuring you to be like someone else? Young professionals entering the workplace feel this all the time. In my experience with them, once they get that first "grown up" job, it is about trying to prove to the world that they indeed are... grown up. Therefore they emulate the behaviors they see in adults at work thinking that is the way they should be. Fast forward, 10 years, if that long, and that person will be questioning how his or her job sucked the life out them.

Be honest with yourself and then you can be honest with others.

Know, and be comfortable with, your strengths and weaknesses

When I discovered I had a passion for communication skills, I was upset. No, actually I was mad. I was ashamed that my passion was in a field that wasn't  more "concrete". Because I work in the soft skill arena, in the beginning, I felt like I had to try to make soft skills seem "harder"  in order to fit in. 

That shame only led me to be less authentic. My strengths were (and still are) my ability to build rapport and trust with people; and my ability to teach others how to do the same. But I down played my strengths.
My weaknesses were being forceful; being loud and pushy. I tried to over play those weaknesses. 

Eventually, I realized I was most effective doing what I am skilled at and passionate about...regardless of what others think. 

You have to know yourself in order to be authentic. I recommend that make a list of your strengths. Then make a list of your weaknesses. Then come to terms with both lists. In an interview about growing as person, comedian Steve Harvey said:

 "I knew who I was then. I know who I am now. And I'm cool with both those cats."

 I love that. Basically, he recognized that his past self isn't shameful even if he made mistakes. You can learn from your mistakes if you stop hiding from them. Your weaknesses don't define your life. Neither do your strengths. Accepting both is a sign of authenticity.

Learn to stand up for yourself

You can't keep waiting for someone to rescue you. I learned this lesson the hard way. Yes, it makes for a nice fairy tale but in real life you have to stand up for yourself. In so doing, others will stand up for you. By being vocal about your values, your wants, your needs is the best way to get them met. Wishing people would "act right" or "get the hint" doesn't produce change. You may have to be the vocal catalyst for what you want to see. Wishbone doesn't get much done. Backbone does.

Stop doing what you are capable of doing

We all have been asked to do things we can do but prefer not too. It happens. But, we have to make sure we aren't spending the majority of our time doing things we don't prefer. 

I have always had a way with people and right after college it seemed every job offer I got was in sales. I enjoyed the customer relationship building side of sales but I didn't like the hard close. I was working one job and my supervisor said to us "if you buy their story, I guarantee, you won't be able to sell it here." What he meant was "don't bring me sob stories as an excuse for not closing the sale because they aren't acceptable."  But I was drawn to sales jobs because of the entrepreneurial nature of them and because of the relationship building aspects. 

But I didn't like my job. I realized if I was going to be truly authentic, I had to stop taking jobs that I could do. I could do sales but I didn't want to. It was a waste of my time and draining my energy. Sometimes you need to let go in order to grab hold.

Understand the definition of professionalism for your organization

When I speak about being authentic inevitably someone pumps her fist and feels validated showing tattoos or wearing pink streaked hair to work. You have to understand what is considered professional for the type of work you do and the organization employing you. Once you understand that, then you can find ways to express your uniqueness within that framework.

If you work in banking, a pink Mohawk is not considered professional. If you work at a tattoo parlor, showcasing your tattoos is encouraged. In fact, it might be a requirement. The fact remains, as long as you work for someone, even if you work for yourself, you have to temper your authenticity against how you'll be received by customers, colleagues and leadership. But notice I said temper not abandon. If you feel like you have to sell your soul every time you go work, that is a sign you might be in the wrong job. Only you can know. that goes back to the first point about being honest.

Authenticity is a journey. I am on the road discovering insights as I go. 

What insights about being authentic have you discovered?

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