Many people feel like they are wearing a mask at work. Your workplace may prioritize stoicism and a “stiff upper lip”, or you may worry about demonstrating vulnerability by expressing their emotions at work. But being authentic is important, both to your own mental health and your professional development. If you are not communicating authentically at work, you may be masking problems that could otherwise be solved in the name of keeping up appearances.

Why Authenticity is Important Professionally

Being authentic means communicating your true personality, values, and goals, even when there is pressure to tell people what they want to hear. It is a deep form of honesty. Not only are you saying things that are true, but they are also important, too.

Communicating authentically at work sometimes means raising disagreements or being seen as controversial or unconventional. However, it can increase opportunities and allow you to move past obstacles, rather than enduring them. Being authentic at work helps you to earn the trust and respect of your coworkers, who will see that your words and actions align with what is important to you. It can also open doors to resolving conflict and addressing chronic issues in your workplace, even if no one else is talking about them.

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Tips to Develop Authenticity

If you want to improve your authenticity and communicate authentically at work, you should:

1.      Identify Your Personal and Professional Values

One of the most important steps to developing authenticity is to know what your values are. You probably have multiple things that are important to you at work, but if you have not identified them and named them, it makes it much harder to consistently make choices that align with those values. On your own, or with a leadership and executive coach, work to identify the core principles that are most important to you. If you are a team leader or business owner, you may also want to make a separate list of values for your company.

2.      Ask Why You are Not Communicating Authentically

If you find there are situations, places, or people who cause you to not communicate authentically, ask why that is. Is there some unresolved conflict or a lack of trust? Are you worried about what someone will think of you? Identifying the obstacles to authentic communication is a necessary step to addressing them, in yourself, or by reaching out to the appropriate channels for help facilitating conflict resolution and developing an emotionally safe workplace.

3.      Hold Yourself to Your Values

The next step is often the hardest, because it requires self-discipline. You need to hold yourself to your values and recognize when you are being less than authentic. Expressing authenticity and vulnerability often isn’t easy, and it is reasonable to expect there to be a learning curve. Don’t give up, and don’t stop holding yourself to your values. Strive for improvement, not perfection, and celebrate incremental growth.

4.      Communicate Honestly

At the same time, consider how you are outwardly expressing those values. Being emotionally honest at work means going deeper and expressing more of your thoughts and feelings, even when doing so is hard. However, if you commit to communicate honestly with your coworkers and team, you may be surprised to find that they are more authentic with you in return.

5.      Ask for Accountability

If you are struggling to develop authenticity on your own, consider making it a point of professional development. You could ask your supervisor for one-on-one meetings to assess your success or inquire about training or coaching to help you achieve your goals. If your workplace isn’t already supportive of developing authenticity, point out that authentic communication can improve problem solving, collaboration, and even productivity as employees learn to trust one another and no longer fear the consequences of honest communication.

Authenticity is important to a healthy life, personally and professionally. The fact that it can improve your reputation and productivity is just an added benefit. If you want to develop authenticity, working with a coach can be an effective way to identify your values, assess your situation and measure your success. That way you can put down the mask and communicate authentically with your coworkers.

David Stanislaw is an organizational development specialist with over 25 years’ experience in resolving organizational dysfunction. Through business consulting and facilitation, David helps businesses and teams improve productivity and workplace culture. Contact us to meet with David to move toward high organizational functioning today.