It’s the season for New Year’s Resolutions. Apart from the usual join-a-gym, run-a-marathon, learn-a-language intentions, many people see January as the time for a fresh start at work. Here’s a deceptively simple idea for workplace resolutions: this year, we should be ourselves.
On average, a working life in Switzerland lasts 42.5 years, the second-longest in Europe, beaten only by Iceland with a mind-boggling 47 years. It’s a long time to pretend to be someone else. Yet many people spend these years presenting a workplace identity that conflicts with who they really are.
New research shows that employees who experience authenticity in the workplace report greater job satisfaction, perform better, and stay more involved with the job. By being who we really are, we make it easier to forge the vital connections with other people that spark innovation, build cohesion and keep communication channels open.
We can also look to popular culture (read here how Jennifer Green Godette, Global Marketing Leader of Cognizant’s Women Empowered initiative, thinks we can learn from Beyoncé) for ideas on why being authentic matters. It’s not necessarily about sharing personal details with everyone we meet – more a case of what value can be unlocked by being true to oneself at work.
Terms such as “authentic leadership” are often dismissed as voguish, catch-all concepts that deliver nothing of value. But there are real benefits. Here are just a few:
- Kick-start innovation
Being authentic means contributing what we think: sharing innovative ideas, even with the knowledge they will take some explaining. Authentic people are more likely to get ideas out in the open, seeding innovation within their organizations.
- Free time and energy for activities that add value
Many people self-edit at work, devoting time and energy to masking parts of their identity that they perceive will prevent them fitting in. This is time and energy that is lost to the organization and the individual.
- Exploit the profit power
People will not risk authenticity in work environments that fail to acknowledge or appreciate difference. Yet organizations with strong and diverse cultures are shown, time and again, to achieve better profits and higher stock prices. By staying authentic, leaders can make a major contribution to promoting the type of culture that will make the company soar to new heights.
So, the best workplace resolution for 2019 could indeed be: be authentic. Particularly as the boundaries between work and private life continue to blur, those 42.5 years of our working lives will be spent more pleasantly and productively if we stay true to ourselves.
Have a great start to 2019!