The majority of employees cover up some part of their personality while at work. According to research by Deloitte on “covering” at work, 61 per cent of respondents reported covering at least one aspect of themselves while at the office (and that number goes up to 83 per cent among LGBT individuals). As Melissa Dahl wrote for New York Magazine’s Science of Us blog, “There is you, and then there is work-you.”
And from a management perspective, this is problematic. When an employee feels compelled to hide aspects of themselves, it causes stress and burnout, as well as disengagement. When they’re encouraged to be authentic, however, it boosts positivity and morale, and increases job satisfaction.
Here are five ways to encourage employees to be their true selves, and boost authenticity in the workplace.
Start with upper management
As with many workplace initiatives, encouraging authenticity in the workplace needs to start with leadership. Work with your managers to ensure they are engaging with their team, asking questions, showing interest, and – most importantly – offering up their own efforts to be authentic, open, and vulnerable at work.
If this is outside of your managers’ comfort zones, consider offering workshops or training. This investment will turn your leadership into ambassadors for a more authentic workplace, and will also give them the language and tools they need to help their reports do the same.
Leverage the onboarding processes
We love singing the praise of a good onboarding process for setting new hires up to thrive. But the onboarding process can also be the perfect place to start encouraging authenticity. After all, new employees can find it very difficult to gauge the personality and culture of their workplace, and that learning curve makes it hard for them to feel comfortable enough to expose their true selves.
During onboarding, offer opportunities for new hires to learn about their new colleagues (and visa versa) in a neutral atmosphere, like a welcome-to-the-team lunch or cocktail hour. Also, encourage new hires to include interesting facts about themselves in their welcome email – this helps them to connect with team members that share the same interests and hobbies, while also encouraging the company as a whole to be more open about their identity and life outside of work.
For more on the onboarding process, download our free eGuide, Onboarding: a practical guide, to get useful checklists, templates, and more.
Offer personal and professional development training
Before authenticity can take place, there needs to be a certain level of self-awareness among your team. And while self-awareness is ultimately the responsibility of the individual, investing in personal and professional development training can nudge that journey along.
Offering courses on topics like business communication, cross-cultural sensitivity, and conflict resolution can give employees the basic tools they need to interact with each other in the workplace in an open (but respectful) way. From there, they can then learn how to adapt these tools to their own personal style.
Start a mentorship program
For some employees, letting their true selves show at work is a difficult and painful process. However, a mentorship or coaching program can help them to develop these skills and create more meaningful relationships between team members.
Lots of different program types are out there – from peer-to-peer mentoring to top-down models – but they will all do wonders for helping your team connect on a deeper level, and grow as employees.
Create a respectful environment
While it’s important to encourage staff to be themselves, it’s also important to create a safe, respect environment for them to do so. Encouraging authenticity in the workplace can’t become an excuse for managers to fly off the handle, loudly berating and belittling employees, with the justification, “Well, that’s just my personality. I’m a passionate person.” At that point, the collective emotional well-being of the team is at risk.
Along with other initiatives to encourage authenticity, implement a zero-tolerance policy towards aggressive and hostile behaviour. This will help employees to be more vulnerable and open, while also curbing any actions that could be unintentionally offensive or hurtful to others.
Boosting authenticity in the workplace takes time and effort, but the results – engaged, productive employees – make it well worth it.