Want a Better Workplace Culture? Embrace Authenticity.

optimistic young diverse female colleagues working on laptop and drinking coffee

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

Did you know that over 90% of employees think authenticity in the workplace is important?

According to a 2021 Simmons Leadership Conference survey, the same individuals who agreed authenticity plays a vital role at work also felt it was beneficial for individuals and organizations alike. In other words, if you’re not fostering a culture of authenticity, you and your employees are missing out on valuable benefits.   

So, what are the benefits of cultivating authenticity in the workplace?

For starters, people do better work when they’re free to be themselves. According to a recent study, well-being at work leads to better work performance, higher employee creativity and engagement, and lower absenteeism rates.

And by better work performance and engagement, I mean substantially BETTER. According to a recent article from BetterUp, there’s a 50% increase in team performance, a 90% increase in team innovation, and a 140% increase in employee engagement when authenticity is welcome in the workplace.

Integrating authenticity in the workplace also makes people feel valued and appreciated –  further facilitating a sense of respect, belonging, and trust.

But for people to truly feel comfortable in their skin, you need to create a work environment that encourages, empowers, and supports authenticity. And that starts with bringing your whole self to work or, as I like to say, unlocking your superpower.

Bringing your whole self to work doesn’t mean you have to reveal every little detail about your personal life. Instead, it means that you shouldn’t have to be a watered-down version of yourself just because you’re at “work.” For example, as someone who identifies as a Black, trans, nonbinary lesbian in tech, I should feel just as comfortable using my pronouns they/them at work as I do with my wife, family, and friends. 

To take it a step further, I should also feel comfortable enough to voice my opinion about an important issue, like transgender inclusion in the workplace, without the fear of retaliation. And you better believe when I say the companies that aren’t making any changes in this department are paying in ways they may not even realize (e.g., inability to recruit and retain talent, lack of employee engagement, etc.)

Now that you know the power of authenticity, here are 5 ways you can start modeling it in the workplace too.

1.   Lead with empathy – the key to leading with empathy is to understand where someone else is coming from (even if you don’t always agree with them) by choosing to see their feelings, thoughts, and experiences from their perspective versus your own.

2.   Practice kindness – think about it: would you be more motivated by positive praise and support from your boss or harsh criticism? The same answer is true of your team or coworkers. When you show empathy and kindness in the workplace, your employees or coworkers are more likely to be inspired to do the work and thus deliver better results for your organization in return.

3.   Create a safe space for conversations – if you want your employees to feel psychologically safe to show up as their whole selves, you need to be proactive about creating a safe space for dialogue – especially when it means they agree to disagree.

4.   Ask and implement feedback – it’s not enough to ask for feedback if you’re not going to do anything with it. Whether through one-on-one meetings, annual reviews, or a company survey, get in the habit of showing your employees their voice matters by gathering feedback and taking action.   

5.   Embrace vulnerability – contrary to popular beliefs, being a good leader doesn’t require you to be right 100% of the time or know everything there is to know. When you can be vulnerable and admit to your team that you made a mistake or don’t know something, they’ll be far more likely to connect and relate to you – building genuine trust and respect in return. And when you have real trust and respect as the foundation for your organization, meeting any goal you set for yourself, and your team suddenly feels within reach. 

B Pagels-Minor

B. loves product development and improving the processes of developing successful products. B. has worked with small (100,000+) companies to increase product adoption, improve the product experience and design, and evolve the product vision. From Mississippi to Chicago to Silicon Valley, B. has built their career around building great products for amazing brands while also working to enrich their community around them. B. is a trans nonbinary lesbian whose pronouns are they/them/their.


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