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In generations past, there were clear expectations around appropriate work conduct. Work lives and personal lives were kept separate, and there a high level of conformity and formality was the norm. We’ve come a long ways since the days of strict dress codes and addressing the boss as “sir” or “ma’am”. Today, there’s a new emphasis on authenticity in the workplace. For many, our “work self” and “personal life self” are more closely aligned, as formerly rigid expectations of professional conduct shift.

As a leader, there are good reasons to encourage employees to bring their “whole selves” to work – authenticity promotes diversity, boosts psychological safety, allows for productive conflict, builds trust, and results in higher morale and productivity.

But “authenticity” needs to be more than just another leadership buzzword. Here’s how to “walk the talk” and effectively promote an authentic work culture.

Lead by example

Authenticity starts at the top, with brave leaders who value, encourage, and model authentic behaviour. What does leading with authenticity look like? Start by identifying what your core values, beliefs and “ways of being” are, and commit to consistently bringing those elements of yourself to work. For example, values and behaviours like positivity, inclusion, self-awareness, transparency, and a willingness to demonstrate vulnerability are all aspects of authentic leadership.

Create space for vulnerability

Vulnerability in leaders builds community and sets the stage for authentic interactions. As people managers and leaders, we can encourage vulnerability by practicing being truly present, listening without judgment, and stepping outside of our comfort zones to share our own experiences without shame. Pro tip: Mistakes happen – own up to your own mistakes readily, and use inevitable blunders as an opportunity to learn together as a team and “do differently” the next time. 

Build trust

A culture of authenticity is built on a foundation of trust. To foster systemic trust, consistency is key: trust-building isn’t a one-off activity accomplished through a day of team bonding. Mutual trust in organizations is earned through consistently demonstrating respect and care, building relationships, investing in development, and empowering employees.

Promote authentic communication

Company-wide communications often sound robotic, scripted, and lacking empathy and humanity. Promote authenticity in corporate communication by choosing relatable language that sounds like it was written by a real human. When it comes to town halls and meetings, dare to ditch the scripted corporate jargon and focus instead on connecting as a team, sharing useful information, and encouraging questions and feedback to create a two-way dialogue.

Your Engaged HR Assignment:

Is authenticity something your organization encourages? Start small with building authenticity by incorporating a consistently genuine, human tone in your written communication. Before you hit “send” on your next all-staff email announcement, review your messaging for tone and authenticity, and adjust accordingly! (hint: a bit of humour goes a long ways).  

Looking to encourage positive culture changes in your organization? We have been there before and enjoy sharing what we’ve learned, so give us a call!

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