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Written by Sarah Bagheri
May 10, 2022(edited on September 20, 2022)

How To Be Authentic At Work And Why It Matters

And what being authentic really means + how you can ensure you’re bringing your whole self to work – bye, bye work persona 


At home, you’re the real you. But when you step into the office or turn on that Zoom camera, you’re suddenly different, you’re ultra-polished, stiff, and reserved. We’ve been taught to value certain formalities, structures, and unspoken norms in the workplace. And qualities that aren’t typically associated with this stuffy traditional view of what your parents dubbed ‘professionalism’ take a backseat when you’re trying to level up your career. 

Hence the work self and the non-work self. This divide tells you to turn certain qualities on and off during your life – but we’re seeing employees tear them down and opting for a single self. Home or work, you’re one person. Frankly, it’s exhausting to do anything else. 


Defining Authenticity 


When you head straight to the source and look up authenticity in the dictionary, you get the following definition:

“[Being] true to one's own personality, spirit, or character”

Ask a friend what they think it means and you’ll likely get something along the lines of “it’s about being yourself” or “it’s being true to yourself”.

And we have news for you, they’re right. Authenticity at work is one of the most powerful traits you can possess if you want to be trusted, respected, and liked in the workplace. These are all things that you need to be successful and feel really great whenever you show up at work. 

Being Your Authentic Self Is Deceptively Hard 


Just because ‘be yourself’ is kindergarten advice doesn’t mean it’s 5-year-old level easy to embody. Being authentic means being vulnerable. If someone rejects you for bringing your whole self to work, that stings WAY more than someone saying ‘no’ to a superficial version of you. 

And in the past, opening up and being who you are just wasn’t the play. Traditional managers wanted you to ‘tow the line’ and fit a mold that used to make authenticity an undesirable quality. Belonging and psychological safety weren’t phrases that HR leaders of the past decade used. But now with employee empowerment at an all-time high, fuelled by the: creator economy boom, the pandemic’s great resignation, and globalization of remote working, authenticity isn’t an impediment to your career it’s becoming THE reason why team members are rising to success. People love working with real people. And once you can tap into who you are, you can skyrocket your career by understanding who you are, what unique value you bring to the table, and what team and environment is your perfect fit. 


Authenticity Is A Vitamin For Any Team 


Authenticity on a team is also a powerful chain reaction. Once a few brave team members feel comfortable opening up and merging more of their work-self and home-self – other team members join in. If you can foster an environment where people feel psychologically safe enough to share authentically, people are happier, more connected, and more loyal to their teams. Talk about a major productivity boost and a more joyful existence for everyone in an organization. It’s like the iconic ‘dancing man’ video, when someone starts, the rest will follow. 

Because think about it this way. If you’re no longer spending energy masking how you feel and who you are, you can use that extra energy to work on projects that light you up and connect with teammates on a deeper level. And with so many new flexible ways of working, like remote work and hybrid work – you can really dig in and customize your work environment to who you are. This makes it easier to talk about who you are and how you work best without having to hide aspects of your life and work style. 

You no longer have to fear standing out and not fitting in. Differences are celebrated. And if you’re open about yours, you’ll find a place where YOU fit in. You’ll no longer have to try and fit in on a team that always feels slightly ‘off’. 

When you put authenticity into the world, you find positions that serve you and make work feel fun. And with the amount of time we spend there, it shouldn’t be any other way. 


How To Be Authentic 


Sounds like a bad Wikihow article, right? But we’re not taught how to be real. In fact, some of us were told to mask from a really young age. Don’t be too loud, it’ll come across as aggressive. Speak your mind, or else you’ll be a doormat. Work harder. Don’t cry. Make sure they know how smart you are. Why are you asking so many questions? 
This makes hiding our go-to default. So to unravel our real self, we have to first recognize when we’re NOT being real. To start off, think about your work self and real self. Are they the same? When you come home from work, do you hang up your work personality like a baggy raincoat? 

Once you can identify how your work-self and home-self differ, you can merge the two and create your whole self. It’ll be SO scary at first, but once you lean into every quality, quirk, and mannerism – you’ll be well on your way to being happier and more genuine at work. 


3 Ways You Can Be More Authentic 


When you’re making a big shift like bringing your whole self to work, it can feel daunting. Where do you start? How can you embrace your whole self when you’ve been masking it for years? What does being authentic even look like? 

We hear you, and we got you! Here are 3 tips to start increasing your authenticity -- even if the thought of putting everything out there feels super scary. 

Define your version of authentic 
Saying a phrase like ‘be authentic’ can feel abstract and weird. You have to make it mean something to you. Are you a private person? Does putting everything on the table feel good to you? Would having to be vulnerable in a work meeting make you pee your pants? 

You don’t have to embody any specific qualities to be considered real. You just have to display the qualities that come naturally to you without replacing them with ‘more favorable’ qualities. Once you define what this means, you can lean into your persona instead of feeling the need to create a persona. 

Self-reflect 
Grab a journal or a Google doc – you’re going within. On the first page, write a paragraph about who you are at work. Then write another one about who you are at home. Are they the same person? Awesome. If they’re not the same person, at least you now know. 

Once you complete that, you can move into listing ALL of your qualities on the next page. Work person qualities and home person qualities. All on the same list. Which of these qualities are traits that you feel you truly have? Which of these feel manufactured? By erasing the manufactured ones and leaning into the real ones, you’re well on your way to bringing your whole self to work. 

Create a Candor profile
Candor is a space where you’re free to share who you are with your team and the world. When you create a profile, you’ll get prompts that go way beyond just where you’ve worked, what job titles you’ve held, or what qualifications you have. Instead, your profile will focus on how you do your best work, what environment unlocks your potential, and the value you bring to your team. 
This extra layer of realness lets you get closer to your current team, have a better relationship with your manager, and get clarity on the kind of workplace and team where your authentic self is truly a fit. No more exhausting masking. No more fitting someone else’s mold. Simply be yourself and watch how happy, productive, and effective you can be at work.

There is so much amazingness inside of you. And even though ‘wearing a mask’ at work might feel ‘safe’ it will hold you back from being your happiest and most successful self. Push aside the fear and introduce your work self to your real self. Both of them together are absolutely unstoppable. 




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