Authenticity in the workplace

“You trust your team, but you’ve got to trust yourself. Or you’re inauthentic. You’ll know it first. Everyone else will know it second. By the time they notice, you’re too far gone.”

George Strombolompolous

I came across this quote from Canadian media personality, George Strombolompolous, in a recent edition of Canadian Business magazine. It really resonated with me. As a manager—particularly as a new manager or as a manager in a more senior role—the accountability and authority newly bestowed upon you can be a heavy load to bear. Not only are you accountable for your own output, but you are now also accountable for the output of your team. If you’re pretending to be something you’re not, in terms of the way you relate to your people, then that lack of authenticity is going to negatively impact how your team views you. After all, how can you build a relationship of respect and trust, if your team perceives that you are not who you say you are? This is why authenticity in the workplace is critical for every manager.

What Do I Mean By Authenticity?

You need to be true to yourself. What is your vision for your department? How do you see your business going forward? How are you going to use the scarce resources available to you—and in almost every organization the resources a manager has are scarce—to add value to your department and organization? In many cases, managers feel pressure to act the way they feel others think they ought to act. My advice? Don’t base your decisions on how others think you should behave unless it is consistent with who you are as an individual. Your manager hired you for who you are. Trust yourself.

Of course, none of us are perfect. As managers and business leaders, we all have areas where we can develop. If you feel that you could use help with coaching, feedback, or some other area of management – seeking out training or mentoring in order to improve your weaknesses is certainly a good idea. The desire to improve yourself is commendable and perfectly compatible with authenticity. In fact, the better you are at your job, the easier it will be for you to be true to yourself.

The Consequences of Being Inauthentic

If you’re not being authentic in the workplace, it’s very hard to be confident. If you are always trying to figure out what is expected of you, and how you should act in order to be consistent with what you think is expected of you, you can’t display an air of confidence. Not if you have to go through that process for every action that you take. You will appear to be indecisive and inconsistent, constantly second guessing yourself, which will negatively impact how others view you. How can you expect your team to trust you, if you don’t trust yourself? That’s not to say that you should never feel anxious or have some fear of failure—those are natural emotions—but it’s far easier to be confident if you’re being true to yourself and authentic.

My advice is to remember that you were appointed to your managerial position because of someone else’s confidence in you. You were hired for the value-added work only you can do. You owe it to yourself, your organization, and your team to be your authentic self.