Authenticity At Work: Why It Matters For Millennials and How It Can Improve Your Bottom Line
By Nathan Peart
Last month, Facebook employees signed a letter presented to Mark Zuckerberg, denouncing the decision to let politicians post any claims they want on the site’s advertisements. The employees’ powerful decision to stand by their authentic values created waves—demonstrating that real action is achievable through authenticity.
Every day, workplace productivity is made possible by authentic social connections – whether a sale is closing, an internal team dynamic is built, or a killer presentation finalized. Authenticity is the essential factor to achieve long-term success for an organization, both culturally and financially. As humans, we know a fake when we see one and regardless of generational differences, that is not going to change.
Today’s workforce needs to place a higher value on authenticity – both employees and leadership will see increased benefits when positive action impacts work culture and in turn, improves productivity and organizational success. What do people, especially millennials, need to be conscious of and why?
Show up as your true self
Having the freedom to express yourself will make you a more productive and successful worker. This is generally only achieved in time by allowing people to express opinions in a non-judgmental space, contribute to the greater good of the organization, and be allowed to be different from the status quo without ramification. Of course, this can still happen with some boundaries and keeping professionalism high, but also keep in mind that peoples’ views of concepts such as professionalism do change. Take for example the rejection of smart workwear in Silicon Valley, which differs significantly from traditional law firms in New York.
The employee can take their own steps to increase their authenticity at work – for example, face problems head-on. If your manager is unhappy with your performance, be truthful about how you approached the task and take on feedback – encourage dialogue and make the conversation a two-way street. Ask them what they would have done differently. Without proper feedback on your performance, no honest dialogue to help you improve can occur, nor allow you to grow and be happier in your job (and thus be your more authentic self).
Teamwork helps establish credibility in the workplace and makes a process more enjoyable for everyone involved. Take time to experiment with your role in a team and learn more about yourself – taking the lead should not be everybody’s go-to role. If you’re strong at communicating with different personality types, become the person tracking the project and keeping everyone updated. If you are better at substantive work, get into the weeds of the project. If you are a natural leader, recognize others for their efforts – lead from the front and champion people when they do well.
The reason authenticity in the workplace is particularly important for millennials is because we live in an age of digital devices, where there is a move towards less face time and more speed as we approach assigned work tasks. Ensure there is spare time and opportunity to slowly open up and build rapport with colleagues, without constantly being distracted by the tasks and devices around you. Now more than ever, an intentional effort to be authentic matters for career success.
Invite authenticity to the morning meeting
Leadership and management can encourage openness and authenticity from their employees through policy development and initiatives. There are a variety of practical and easy measures that when implemented, will foster an environment of deeper trust and thus increased loyalty and productivity from your workforce.
Simple measures such as dress-down days and employee forums are small but significant ways employers can help to build authenticity in the workplace. With employees feeling comfortable in the work space because of a more relaxed environment, this allows diverse opinions to form and boundaries to be pushed. This is not carte blanche for people to do what they like – but embracing change as an employer, results in an increase in employee engagement and optimism for future opportunities.
When people are happy in their environment and have a sense of achievement, this then allows them to focus more on the task at hand and apply their unique perspective. In such an environment, there are fewer microaggressions to deal with, less tension between differences of opinion that remain unspoken, and a positive approach to workplace problems. It creates a solution-driven mindset, rather than another problem to deal with during the day.
How can an employer effectively roll out changes in a way that is relatable to all? Stories are often a great way to make impactful and deeper connections with those you struggle to build a natural rapport with. Know your story and describe your journey. Share your experiences, vulnerabilities, and dreams with people – give them insight into you as a person, especially moments that have been difficult for you on your career path. It builds empathy and allows somebody to relate to you in a way they can understand. Think of stories that are personal to you and their themes – have you got married recently, has there been a significant event in your life, are you part of a particular affinity or hobby group? It will help soften any employee perceptions and allow you both to find common ground, especially during tricky policy changes that may not always be popular.
Bringing it all together
Authenticity can be a tool that will give you more emotional capital to leverage in business situations. Without some level of authenticity, Facebook employees would not have had a voice to facilitate change.
Employees need the courage to be their authentic selves at work, and leaders should not be afraid of uncomfortable conversations and listening to differing viewpoints. When workplace cultures invite and encourage different views and experiences, they grow stronger together and strive for a common goal—which can only have a positive impact on your bottom line.