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4 Reasons Why Authenticity is Essential in the Workplace

Authenticity seems to be a buzzword in multiple industries at the minute, permeating discussions relating to branding, social media usage and day-to-day life.

But what is it?

Authenticity simply means the quality of being real or true, in its simplest form.

In psychology, authenticity is a huge concept in the work of Humanistic Psychologists such as Maslow, who saw authenticity as a ‘privileged way of reaching happiness’.[1]

However, when it comes to authenticity in and at work, research is more sparse, as people are only just starting to take an interest in how authenticity can permeate our workplaces and how exactly it can effect it.

So, let’s get into why authenticity is essential in, and for, businesses.

1. It can positively influence wellbeing

If there’s something we all need a little more of, it’s increased wellbeing in the workplace.

A study by Ménard and Brunet (2011)[2] focused on the effect authenticity had on those in managerial positions specifically, finding that authenticity was positively linked to subjective wellbeing at work.

The most interesting part, though?

Where managers were more authentic, they were also more satisfied, experiencing positive affect more frequently than negative affect.

The general perception of authenticity was therefore associated to the perception of having a meaningful job – the managers who perceived they were ‘being themselves’ whilst carrying out their job role tended to find more meaning and purpose in their occupation.

2. It’s linked to innovation in employees

It might sound strange, but it makes sense – if authentic leaders are perceived in the workplace, employees are likelier to be more engaged than they would otherwise.

That’s exactly what Laguna et al (2019)[3] found in a multilevel investigation in three countries (Spain, Poland and the Netherlands).

Their findings suggested that the innovative behaviour of employees can be increased through leadership training, improving the quality of workplace relationships such as those between leaders and subordinates, and strengthen employees’ personal initiative and work engagement.

Who doesn’t want to have more innovative employees?

3. It can bring fulfilment

“You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.”

Mike Robbins talks about this quote from Brené Brown in his Tedx talk[4], walking through why ‘bringing yourself to work’ and being vulnerable is so essential in trust and connection.

Though being your ‘authentic self’ at work may begin as being uncomfortable and scary, this vulnerability will pay dividends in the long run.

Mike puts forth two aspects to fostering a culture that allows people to ‘be themselves’ in any organisation: healthy expectation and high nurturance.

That meaning, you have healthy expectations and nurture at the same time, not one or the other.

Being seen and feeling safe to do so is what causes this fulfilment, usually through empathy and compassion!

4. It promotes positive behaviours

If everyone in a workplace practices authenticity, it can promote positive behaviours and satisfying relationships[5].

More importantly, authenticity is positively linked to a wealth of outcomes in the workplace: work engagement, job satisfaction and performance[6].

It’s not just the characteristics of a job that are a good indicator of occupational wellbeing, but the ‘experience of one’s true self’[6].

Whether you expect all of these benefits to ring true in your workplace or not, even just beginning to practice authenticity and cultivating an environment that enables it can potentially have a knock-on effect on occupational wellbeing in the long-run.

So, there you have it!

Authenticity is still in the relatively early stages of research, but the research that has been done points towards the positive implications of ‘bringing yourself to work’.

The true indication of how widespread or large these implications are, though, is how well the environment is built to encourage authenticity amongst all employees in a business!


Research lovingly compiled and summarised by Lucy Williams for use in this article!

If you’re curious about how you can start cultivating authenticity in the workplace, you can attend our webinar on Authenticity at Work.

Alternatively, if you’re self-employed or intending to be, you might be more interested in our engaging and interactive workshop on Authenticity in Business!


References

[1] Maslow, A.H. (1976), The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, Penguin Books, New York, NY.

[2] Ménard, J., & Brunet, L. (2011). Authenticity and well-being in the workplace: A mediation model. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 26(4), 331–346

[3] Laguna, M.; Walachowska, K.; Gorgievski-Duijvesteijn, M.J.; Moriano, J.A. (2019) Authentic Leadership and Employees’ Innovative Behaviour: A Multilevel Investigation in Three Countries. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 16, 4201.

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bd2WKQWG_Dg

[5] Peterson, R. (2005). In Search of Authenticity*. Journal of Management Studies, 42(5), 0022-2380

[6] U. Baran Metin Toon W. Taris Maria C. W. Peeters Ilona van Beek Ralph Van den Bosch , (2016),”Authenticity at work – a job-demands resources perspective”, Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 31 Iss. 2 pp. 483 – 499