How authentic can I be in a professional setting?
Authenticity in personal development, leadership and times of crisis
In a professional context, authenticity is a success factor: New employees should bring their whole personality into the team and employees want their managers to behave credibly.
We also talk a lot about this phenomenon in our Strametz seminars and trainings. Young professionals in particular keep asking us:
How authentic can I be? When is authenticity inappropriate?
Read our statements here on authenticity in personal development, as a manager and in times of crisis.
- Authenticity encompasses our strengths and weaknesses
Authenticity is mostly equated with being “undisguised, honest and genuine”: This has an enormously positive connotation and, compared to the perfect self-portrayal on social media, acts like a liberation.
That is why in our society authenticity is associated with decency and honesty, we think of moral deeds and exemplary behavior. This authenticity forms a strong contrast to false presentations.
But this positive level of meaning of authenticity is only one side of the coin: We act completely authentically - as it corresponds to our inner being - when we are unobserved.
Lying on the sofa in the evening and eating pizza - that too can be an expression of authenticity.
So what we really are is authentic: This applies not only to our strengths and glamorous moments, but also to our weaknesses.
- Authenticity needs self-acceptance
So to be authentic means to accept your whole personality.
To do this, we also have to endure our weaknesses: Accepting yourself does not mean that you like everything about yourself.
The danger lurks here of misunderstanding authenticity as a free ticket in order to resign and stay in the personal comfort zone: "That's how I am." Behind this is often the implicit thought: "And I don't want to change that."
But those who accept their personality can also change.
There is a lot of positive energy in this self-acceptance when we take responsibility for our own behavior: "That's how I am, but that's not how I have to stay."
- Can I let my feelings guide me at work?
Am I authentic if I behave in a way that corresponds to my feelings in the situation?
Is it legitimate to vocalize your colleague's opinion at the end of a project because he has not done his job well?
We often regret authentic situational impulses in a professional context. Afterwards, we have to take a lot of effort to smooth things over and regain trust.
Whoever expresses how he feels or what he thinks reacts authentically, but this is inappropriate in the company. The completely authentic is not effective; it can be unprofessional and create more work.
- Authenticity in the job requires professionalism
Authenticity in a professional context is reduced to a level that is socially acceptable by an important ingredient: professionalism.
In the professional context there are hierarchies and unspoken rules of conduct. Even if you want to get involved in the company as a whole person, you should always be aware of your role.
This allows you to reflect on which behavior is appropriate or inappropriate.
To adapt, to meet external expectations and to withdraw from time to time is important in order to get along with others.
Whether in crisis communication with teammates or in feedback discussions: We should be equally authentic and act in accordance with roles so that we can react appropriately. The trick is to balance role and personality.
Self-control and appropriateness turn careless authenticity 1.0 into prudent authenticity 2.0.
- Authenticity as a manager in times of crisis
Is it appropriate as a manager in times of crisis to behave authentically?
Especially in exceptional situations, your team needs you as a pioneer and encourager, who shows perspectives and broadens the horizon for the time after the crisis.
Take on your role as a manager and act as a motivator - in the spirit of professionalism, which requires authenticity in a professional setting.
Perhaps you struggle with worries on the inside yourself - on the outside you encourage your team. How can you deal with this balancing act? Isn't that inauthentic?
Because you can distinguish where authentic feelings have room and where they don't.
It is therefore important that you as a manager take care of yourself in times of crisis and look for conversation partners in a private context or exchange honestly with colleagues about how you are doing with the team leadership in a crisis.
Knowing in which framework you can let feelings out unfiltered and where authenticity also requires self-acceptance and professionalism is an enormous benefit.
That is the level-headed authenticity 2.0 that we need especially in times of crisis.
Anyone who wants to be professionally successful should not understand authenticity as a static state. The trick is to recognize when it is your turn to be primarily authentic and in which situations it is appropriate to behave in a more role-compliant manner. The middle is often a good way to go here. Those who are aware of the two approaches and reflect on it learn to adapt flexibly to which occurrence is appropriate in a situation - they will be perceived as coherent by others.
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