Which YOU are You Bringing to the Office?
I was involved in a conversation with a friend recently where they she was explaining her dual personas. “At home, I have no problem speaking my mind. At work, I tend to be far more passive.” Completely intrigued, I probed further. I was genuinely curious as to "the why" behind the different behaviors. And as I attempted to gain understanding, I was left with a feeling of sadness. How exhausting it must be to switch personalities in the two main parts of your life. So, I went and did a little investigation.
Our company, like many others, uses the Predictive Index as a tool for collecting additional data on the candidates who interview with us. It provides wonderful input in terms of being a very quick, non-threatening assessment which produces amazingly accurate and insightful results. We never use it to rule people in or out, but rather to gain a deeper understanding of what drives and motivates the people we hire and how best to set them up for success. Describing it at a very high level, individuals are provided 86 descriptive words, and select which ones they feel describe them. This provides a lens into their “self.” They are then again given the identical list of 86, and asked to select the words that they feel represent how others expect them to behave, which indicates their “self-concept.” The two sets of data provided by the individual is then summed up, creating a third lens which is interpreted as a representation of the individual’s observable behavior at work, or the “synthesis.”
After the conversation with my friend, I was compelled to do some exploration of some of the PIs from former and current employees within my own company. I was struck by the synthesis charts. I noted that when the self and self-concept align for a strong synthesis, the net result is authentic employees. The assessment doesn’t measure whether they are strong performers, or good people. However, if I reflect on those people I work with who bring a true sense of themselves to the office, I can draw a fairly direct line between those with a strong correlation between self and self-concept, and people who thrive in our environment.
In other words, while authenticity has become a major buzzword, it’s an important concept to consider as you navigate where you work, and how you live your life. Feeling like you aren’t truly aligned? Here’s three things to consider if you choose to introduce a little more of the “real you” to your worklife.
LET YOUR FREAK FLAG FLY…PROFESSIONALLY
Being authentic does not mean you need to shun professionalism. Start by understanding the boundaries and norms of your work environment, and find your own way of expressing yourself within them. For example, I work in a business casual workplace. Some days, I come to work in a nice dress and heels. Other days, I push the limits of casual. Generally speaking, however, I work in a place that allows me to feel comfortable dressing in a way that works for me. I know, for example, if I worked in a more formal environment that required me to wear business suits every day, I might be able to do it, but would likely grow resentful or not feel like myself having to wear that uniform every single day. That’s not good for my morale, which ultimately affects my engagement and performance. Bottom line: when seeking employment, dig to learn about the environment, and if it “fits” you. By knowing yourself and the elements that will help you thrive, you are setting yourself up for a far better experience conducive to making impact.
SHARE…WITHOUT BEING A COMPLETELY OPEN BOOK
Being authentic does not mean you need to share all the intimate details of your life. Of course, in building relationships with colleagues many of us share base level personal details. However, it’s important to realize the line between your personal life and business, and when there is a time and a place to share these details. For example, I might have some strong political views, and the authentic side of me would love to share them when I am feeling particularly passionate about one of them. However, given I don’t work in a political field, raising some of these points of view in my office just isn’t appropriate. I am fortunate to have chosen a place to work where, while there are significantly different points of view among my colleagues, generally speaking, there is alignment and unity among people. In other words, where we work has an impact on the details about ourselves that become important considerations. We all have personal details about our lives; and authenticity becomes important in choosing how and what to share about ourselves in work situations.
ADD IMPACT…WITHOUT BEING PERFECT
We all aim to add value and gain mastery within our careers. However, as people who consistently grow and evolve, there is no way anyone is absolutely crushing it in every dimension all the time. Rather than coming to work and highlighting all your victories and wins, share some of the experiences you’ve had when you didn’t hit it out of the park. Being able to share strengths as well as challenges builds respect, humanity and learning with others. Humans are flawed. When we let our guard down and share that bit of ourselves, we are sharing our vulnerability – which ultimately displays our authenticity.
Being authentic about who you are, what drives and motivates you, and how you bring your best self in both work and life benefits everyone around you; colleagues and personal relationships alike. We all seek to be understood in life, and the more relatable and “real” you are, the more successful you might find yourself.