Make Work More Enjoyable by Being Yourself

When you walk in or log in to work, how much of your authentic self do you bring with you?

It’s not a simple question to answer since one can pose many counter-questions. What do I gain from being authentic at work? What if my authentic self is perceived as inauthentic? These are valid questions that Casey Erin Clark and Julie Fogh, authors of “The Authenticity Code” aim to answer.

During a recent GovLoop book club event, Clark and Fogh dissected what it means to be authentic, acknowledging the term’s complexity.

Authenticity is complicated

Some people hear the word authenticity and think it means having the same attitude at happy hour as at a business meeting. But Fogh explained that authenticity relies on the environment we occupy.

“At its essence, authenticity is being able to bring the most of yourself to the table,” said Fogh. “What that looks like and how it manifests is context-dependent because as human beings, we’re always communicating with our given circumstances and with the environment that’s around us.”

Clark compared the idea of authenticity to the phenomenon of confidence,  both being positive qualities with definitions that vary across different perspectives.

One can believe that they are authentic while coming across as inauthentic to others. Because of this, organizations need to have a standard definition of authenticity, so all employees adhere to it.

“When it comes to organizations, even if we can’t necessarily pinpoint what authenticity is at a microlevel, we need to have some sort of a sense of a collective definition,” said Fogh. She explained that if one person imposes a different definition onto a co-worker, this leads to tone policing. Tone policing is a tactic where one invalidates the message of another person by focusing on their tone or expression of emotion. It can tarnish work relationships.

Communication is about output and input. Our authentic selves do not exist in a vacuum. Sometimes you will be your authentic self by observing your workplace culture. As long as our core values remain the same, there’s nothing unnatural about our personalities varying when we occupy different spaces. “It gets weird when people are exactly the same in every circumstance. That doesn’t make sense to us,” said Clark. “No one talks to a puppy the way they talk to their boss.”

Feel comfortable when connecting with others

If you still don’t feel motivated to practice authenticity at work, think of it as the road of least resistance. Clark and Fogh pointed out that authenticity feels more comfortable than wearing a facade.

“When I feel authentic, I feel present. I feel connected to the people I’m talking to,” said Clark. “When we are authentic and when we are present, we have more access to serendipity, to the beauty of creativity, to connect to other people. It is a worthy goal.”

So, strive to be authentic. Because if you want to be the best, you need to be yourself.

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