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How to Be Authentic at Work?

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People are drawn to authenticity and authentic people.

Their stories inspire. Their honesty and openness nudges trust. They are good friends, charismatic leaders, and ingenious co-workers.

However, most of the time, we are working so hard to just fit in, especially at work, where we carefully tailor our work personas: professional, distant and non-approachable. 

In a world that is screaming for acceptance, being yourself is a rare asset. But the struggle of being authentic is deeply rooted in fear of rejection.

Authenticity has to do with embracing vulnerability, showing our true selves – imperfect and constantly learning -, recognizing our mistakes, and bringing the right emotions to the table.

Being authentic about how we feel is fundamental for our capacity to truly connect with others.

And it is a critical skill at work, where effective self-disclosure can build trust and engender better collaboration and teamwork.

According to our partners at Genos, authenticity is about openly and effectively expressing oneself, honoring commitments, and encouraging the same behavior in others.

It involves honestly expressing specific feelings at work, such as happiness and frustration, providing feedback to colleagues about the way you feel, and sharing emotions at the right time, to the right degree, and with the right people.

Let’s delve into how each of the listed dimensions of authenticity reflects in the workplace (and when working with people in general).


Express yourself openly and effectively

When you shut down vulnerability, you shut down opportunity. (Brene Brown)

Being guarded can often lead to mistrust and misunderstanding. And so, like our beloved Brene Brown has been preaching, honest sharing of thoughts, feelings, and experiences is essential, both at work and at home. 

There are, however, guidelines to follow.

Delivering your vulnerabilities with power and effectiveness has a lot to do with good timing and the right circumstances. 

When sharing personal stories and feelings, ask yourself if they are relevant to the situation or task at hand.

Express how you feel in a way that others can connect to and study thoroughly the organizational and cultural context before you do, especially if you’re new to the environment.

This research from HBR looks at how bad timing and inconsistency with cultural and organizational norms can make honest self-expression take unexpected turns.


Honour commitments

Be aware of the commitments you made to others, but particularly the ones you make to yourself. 

Keep track of the things you say you will do and regularly reflect on this list to ensure consistency.

Make a plan, keep a planner, set reminders and follow-ups with stakeholders along the way.

Nothing supports authenticity and trust-building like consistency does.

And act in congruence with your values and desires, despite external pressure to conformity. You are a valuable part of the bigger puzzle and to bring out your best work, stay in tune with who you truly are, and let it manifest.


Nudge authenticity in others

Encourage authenticity in your team through the power of example and by fostering safe conversations about the things that matter to us and how to bring more of that at work. 

Ask others how they feel about the challenges they encounter in the office. Listen authentically.

Encourage feedback coming from a place of compassion. And help create the right circumstances for great work, where values, talents, and honest insights are recognized and put to good use.

Our vulnerabilities make us real. Let us put them to good use and build stronger, genuine work environments that foster and support authenticity through honest yet efficient self-expression.

We’ve put together three simple practices to develop your authenticity, check them out here.

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