2-7: Don’t Be a Social Chameleon: How to Build Authentic Workplace Culture
At one time or another, we have all experienced the feeling that we needed to be a social chameleon. Whether this was in the workplace or a social gathering, you may have felt that just blending in and agreeing with the group would garner acceptance and respect (and frankly just make your life easier). Additionally, have you ever noticed that you are almost a completely different person at work than you are at home? This is the same idea of a chameleon altering its appearance as it moves throughout its habitat to protect itself by blending into its surroundings. As humans are social creatures by design, it is only natural that we find ourselves in situations where we feel that conformity is the safest and most proactive option. Whether it be to reflect the most highly valued ideals of your organization’s culture or simply to make a good first impression when meeting people, this desire to hide your authentic self can be draining over time.
What is the big deal about authenticity then? Authenticity is the quality of being true to yourself without any facades or pretenses. According to a Silicon Republic article, “authenticity is about being fully yourself while developing and growing beyond your comfort zone.” In this way, constant progress and self-development is essential to growing into who your authentic self truly is. It is the Wizard of Oz as simply the man, not the larger-than life image he projected to the world. Therefore, an authentic company culture is one that does not promote that ‘smoke and mirrors’ mentality and instead exudes the true driving force behind the mission of the members, effectively helping the organization to succeed.
Even though the topic of authenticity may not be widely discussed, it is very important in creating a strong company culture and empowering organizational members to be their true selves. This then increases job satisfaction, productivity, and retention. Below are three strategies to begin the journey to creating an authentic company culture.
A good starting point for organizations is improving their diversity, not only in the typical sense of demographics but diversity of thought is imperative. An organization cannot simply be composed of members that are carbon copies of one another, all thinking and acting similarly. ‘Yes-men’ do not voice unique viewpoints that challenge an organization to constantly improve. When an organization embraces diversity and promotes the genuine representation of it, the potential for success is increased by strengthening strategies by combining the unique perspectives of the authentic members.
Value Employee Opinions & Individuality
It is one thing to build an organization that is composed of diverse professionals. It is another thing entirely to foster an environment in which members are encouraged to be authentic. This means management must be able to take suggestions and criticism in a constructive manner. As individuals are encouraged to share their unique perspectives on their work and how to help the organization prosper, they are given the freedom to think more creatively and abstractly to solve problems. In a Greater Good Magazine article, Patricia Faison Hewlin, who studies authenticity in the workplace, shared that “one student I encountered said very poignantly, ‘If you are going to be authentic, that requires you to be accepting of the authenticity of others.’” Thus, in order to build a culture focused on authenticity, all organizational members must be willing to support others in whatever that may mean for them.
Give Perfection a Day Off
While business is often about careful calculations and exact executions, this desire to make everything perfect can be stifling. Creativity cannot thrive in this sort of sterile environment where something, such as professionalism, is held to such a high standard that no deviation from the norm is acceptable. An authentic culture strengthens the community and ideas generated. Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook said it best:
“Presenting leadership as a list of carefully defined qualities (like strategic,analytical, and performance-oriented) no longer holds. Instead, true leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed. Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.”
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