Every morning of every day, millions of people begin their daily routines; wake up, make coffee, get dressed, brush teeth, grab laptop, cannot locate keys, search for keys, find keys, leave home, commute to work, Starbucks for more coffee, get to office, begin working day.
When I lived and worked in London, I overheard so many conversations on my journey to work, sometimes this was the highlight of my day but on one particular journey I overheard two colleagues discussing their day ahead, they appeared to be nervous and whatever they were heading towards seemed like a big deal. One turned to the other and said, are you going to go in as you, you or work you? To this day I still hear this reference too many times or I see behaviors that demonstrate a work personality and honestly there really is no need for it. As I listened further on into the conversation I thought that being “work you” does not make you either credible nor does it make you authentic. By putting on a work version of themselves I felt that they were putting themselves under unnecessary pressure which was only going to highlight the nervousness of their situation not only in their performance but this would also show to those that they were so keen to impress.
Personally, I believe that people are much more amiable when they are themselves which makes it easier to form genuine relationships, build trust and work collaboratively. We’ve all seen what can happen when people try to be someone they are not such as the recent activity in Celebrity Big Brother; the stitches soon start to unravel and with that follows the breakdown of trust, respect and credibility. So why do so many people still rely upon this behavior in the workplace?
Every HR event I have been to recently all had a common theme; authenticity and credibility as a HR professional. These two elements if ignored can be fatal to your career or development as this is what makes HR exactly that, human. Being yourself can significantly increase your credibility in all areas of your work; especially in situations such as mediation or when presenting at a board meeting, when people know you, it opens a wealth of opportunity, makes you approachable and more importantly someone that the business can rely on.
Of course this is not limited to just HR, I have witnessed these behaviors in every place in which I have worked and unsurprisingly at all levels of those businesses.
It begs the question, are HR professionals expected to be perfect within our organisations? I certainly believe to a degree that this is what people actually accept as true but I also think it has a significant impact upon our ability to be genuine. I think it is categorically important as professionals that we accurately guide employees and managers through the required processes in a way in which we choose without losing consistency. It is the same with directors and business leaders, is it entirely possible to lead and maintain a level of integrity?
It is a difficult balance; some would call it a façade to maintain but so many people feel more comfortable conducting themselves in this way. Could it be that some people prefer to be corporate and professional at all times without letting their guard down as to preserve a certain image or is it that there is a fear of vulnerability and how colleagues would perceive them should they reveal their true persona?
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for this sometimes especially when you are new to a role and are assessing the boundaries, this is a sensible option. However it is equally important to allow elements of your personality to reflect your work so that others can relate to it; be it a spread sheet, presentation or even in a training room. It also enables you to utlise your full complement of skills to project your knowledge in a way you fully understand yourself which sounds bizarre but so many have tried to be anyone else but themselves only to trip over in a public forum, because let’s be honest, it never happens when nobody is watching does it?!
It is not entirely limited to work life only of course, there is a crossover into our personal space, the real you . This can have an impact on a work life balance and personal relationships so being genuine isn’t just about a perception at work, it’s also a factor in mental health wellbeing.
And the moral of the story is; these situations are entirely avoidable, just be you. Trust me, you’ll be grateful to yourself that you were.