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As organisations endeavour to create inclusive cultures, employers are increasingly asking how they can encourage employees to bring their whole selves to the (virtual) office. To live and work authentically helps individuals feel more satisfied in their roles and can spark a more productive atmosphere. By empowering people to be themselves, employers are likely to uncover hidden skills, inspire innovation and increase loyalty.

While companies and team members may recognise the value of authenticity, I have found that there are some misconceptions about what the term encompasses. To build a welcoming workplace, it’s important to explore what it means to be genuine and celebrate each individual.

Popular Myths About Authenticity

#1 – There is only one way to express one’s true self.

Some individuals believe that to be authentic you must act in the same way in every situation. In reality, there is a range of self. To illustrate this point, I invite you think about how you show up when you feel comfortable in various spaces in your life, such as with your family, friends and coworkers. While you likely do not behave in the EXACT same way, that does not necessarily mean you are being insincere.

More likely, it indicates that you have many pieces to your identity as well as differing levels of relational trust. Certain elements of who you are may be more present at work while other facets are more apparent at home. Rather than thinking there is only one version of you, I encourage you to evaluate the many characteristics that make up your being.

#2 – Authenticity is a static state.

Some presume that being true to oneself requires rigidity. I imagine that every person reading this blog has experienced a life event, or had their opinions and perspectives changed at some point. These adaptations are markers of your personal evolution.

Most people continue growing, learning and changing throughout their lives. As you experience these shifts, reflect on how the developments affect your identity and principles, so that you can continue to live sincerely even if it means you are different today than you were yesterday.

#3 – Authenticity focuses more on one’s relationship with others than oneself.

Often, when individuals talk about being authentic, it is within the context of opening up and being vulnerable with others. Those actions and interactions are important, and before you can truly create such honest relationships, self-awareness is essential.

Spending time understanding the elements of who you are, your values, interests and beliefs is vital. After all, it is quite difficult to share oneself if you do not know who that person is. The journey to self-understanding takes time and using assessments like Emergenetics® can be a starting point to illuminate some of the many elements that make you who you are.

#4 – Matching rapport is disingenuous.

In Emergenetics trainings, we highlight the positive impact of flexing to better meet others where they are at, and I have sometimes heard the question: “How can I be authentic if I am matching rapport?” I believe this misconception comes from a concern that, to match rapport, you need to completely adapt your personality or style. However, that is not the intent of flexing, and altering who you are can be detrimental to the process.

Rapport can be defined as being “in sync” with others, understanding their feelings and communicating smoothly. You build positive connections by recognising the validity of others’ experiences and addressing their interests while still adhering to your principles and sharing your perspectives. By operating within your range of self, you can express your viewpoints while honouring the needs of your colleagues. In doing so, you can strengthen trust, which contributes to more fulfilling relationships and workplaces.

#5 – Authenticity means saying exactly what you are thinking.

I read an article recently that touched on this concept using the example of a friend who enjoys singing and is terrible at it. If you do not tell your friend that their voice is off-key, it does not mean you are being artificial. You are simply using situational awareness to assess whether your thoughts need to be expressed or not, and with consideration for context, such as time, place, relevance and beyond.

To create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their whole self, it is important to develop a culture of respect. Not every thought running through your mind will create that level of confidence, nor will you feel more authentic by stating it. In these instances, you can still be yourself without declaring every opinion.

#6 – One must share everything about themselves.

There is no requirement that you reveal each part of your identity to be authentic. Vulnerability requires trust, and individuals must determine who they feel comfortable confiding in. Using workshops like Emergenetics, you can promote a culture that welcomes differing experiences and opinions.

These shared experiences are a foundation to building psychological safety, where colleagues know there is space to speak up, ask questions, share ideas, voice concerns and make mistakes. When team members feel safe enough to take risks with one another, it supports everybody’s ability to be themselves.

#7 – One’s job must perfectly connect to their identity.

There is a difference between a perfect match and congruence, and the distinction matters. In a seemingly perfect world, your values, beliefs and experiences will completely connect to your job function, teammates and company culture. In contrast, congruence suggests that you have compatibility, rather than an exact match.

Given that each person has their own set of viewpoints, principles and interests, there will always be some discrepancies between your perspectives and others’. And, it is important to respect and value these differences. To find an environment that allows you to showcase your authentic self, the goal should be to find congruence rather than complete alignment.

As we have discussed the concept of authenticity, you may have noticed a few themes arise, such as the importance of developing relational trust and having confidence that others will appreciate you for being who you are.

For companies that want to develop a culture grounded in trust and vulnerability, I invite you to read a few of our posts on psychological safety here and here. By creating a workplace where staff recognise their opinions, experiences and perspectives are valued, you can help them feel more comfortable being their authentic selves at work.

Learn more about how Emergenetics can help you create a culture that celebrates every employee. Explore our website or fill out the form below!

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