Showing Your Authentic Self at Work

graphic of a woman looking in a mirror and seeing masks of many different faces

Since 2020, more and more companies have implemented DEI programs in their culture. As a result, business leaders are learning the importance of giving employees an inclusive and diverse workplace where there is room for showing your authentic self at work. With this, employees are now learning to express themselves authentically among their peers while maintaining a professional air. Read on to navigate presenting yourself authentically in a professional setting.

How Can Showing Your Authentic Self at Work Impact You and The People Around You?   

In a world where we have to dictate what is true and what is false, the authenticity of everyday interactions can be considerably impactful to oneself. What do you notice about someone when you first meet them? Their tone of voice? Body language? Appearance? First impressions can mean a lot, but you will never truly know how authentic someone is from your first interaction. You may come to find that a person who seemed genuine at first can end up completely different, while someone who had a bad first impression can end up as a close friend. While it can be unhealthy to dwell on one’s authenticity for prolonged periods, keeping it in mind when interacting with others is essential.

Authenticity is Not About Sharing Every Aspect of Yourself 

Being as authentic as you can when interacting with others is important. However, it is necessary to realize when authenticity could be a detriment in a particular situation. According to this Forbes article, you should consider whether someone is ready for you to share information, and how they will react. Sometimes, someone is in a sensitive position, and bringing up the truth can only impact them negatively. There might be times when someone may want to cause harm to you, and keeping the truth from them is a way to prevent that. Honesty is not always the best answer when expressing yourself in today’s society. Knowing when to be authentic and when not to be is crucial. 

Authenticity and the Majority

When you’re in the majority, it tends to be easier to share your opinion, race, religion, or language and be authentic about yourself. If you aren’t in the majority, it may feel like you risk being alienated and/or having your performance re-evaluated as a result of showing your authentic self at work. When in the majority, it is easier to share your authenticity with others of the likewise mindset of opinion, race, religion, or language. 

How Showing Your Authentic Self at Work May Be Done Thoughtfully

There isn’t a straightforward way or method when sharing authenticity, when to share it, and with whom, but some languages and strategies can help guide you to help ease the question in. You can pre-frame the conversation in the beginning, saying something along the lines of “There’s part of my identity/experience/something difficult for me to talk about that I’d like to share.” This is a good start and lets the other person know it’s more of a serious conversation. You can also make a specific request when sharing information with someone. For example, you could request the other person just listen, help decide with you, share the information, or speak up for you in the future. Of course, if someone does bring up something that you aren’t ready to talk about or share, you can always turn down the conversation or limit what you are comfortable sharing with that person. This article from Insperity highlights the importance of thinking before sharing, and having intent behind it when you do.

Create a Culture that Encourages Authenticity

There is no one correct way to express yourself authentically in the workplace. Ultimately, you should do so comfortably and consensually, which may include drawing boundaries around how and to whom you share certain facets of yourself. Learn more about how Online Optimism strives to give space for authenticity among its employees in our Culture Handbook.

**This blog was a collaborative effort between our Spring 2023 Specialists, including Alyssa Kim.