How to be Your Authentic Self at Work and Thrive
The U.S. workplace is more diverse than at any other time in our nation’s history. Here are a few stats that reflect workplace diversity:
- Gender: The percentage of women in the U.S. workforce is approximately 58%. (Zippia)
- Race & Ethnicity: 58% are White, 18% are Hispanic/Latino, 13% Black/African American, 6% Asian/Pacific Islander, 2% two or more races, and 1% Native Americans. (Zippia)
- Generations: By 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce and by the end of the decade Gen Z will be 25% of the workforce (Deloitte)
- Disability: 19% of workers with at least one disability were employed in 2021. (BLS)
- Sexual Orientation: LGBTQ+ employees make up approximately 5.9% of the workforce (Williams Institute) and approximately 1.6% of U.S. adults are transgender or non-binary (Pew Research)
These data sources reflect widespread diversity. Layer in cultural diversity, diverse perspectives, religious beliefs, education, and other dimensions of diversity and you can see straightway the enormous opportunity and challenges that a diverse workforce offers. Studies also show that companies that are more diverse perform better. They are in a more favorable position to attract the best talent as 75% of American workers say they want to work for a company that is diverse.
Beyond representation is the experience employees have inside their companies. It is the culture that shapes the employee experience. If the culture is not inclusive, companies know employee engagement and retention will suffer. And that is a tremendous cost to the company’s reputation and bottom line.
Companies that make a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion say they want a culture where employees can bring their true selves to work and feel a sense of belonging. Employees want that too. So why doesn’t it happen? I offer three potential reasons to consider:
- Lack of trust. Employees observe who and what gets rewarded. Regardless of what the company says, employees will pay attention to what happens on a daily basis. Who are leading teams, assigned high profile work, are in key decision-making roles, and who is being recognized and promoted. Employees will adjust their behaviors to what they see lead to success.
- Lack of partnership. Companies, specifically leaders who treat employees as partners in the work are more likely to build a culture of mutual respect and co-creation. In those cultures, employees feel they are heard, their work matters, and they are contributing to the success of the company. Where there is no partnership and workers are viewed as “assets” or means to an end, don’t expect them to feel a sense of belonging.
- Lack of cultural competency. Well-intentioned companies invest in diversity education – not the kind that is put out once a year to meet compliance requirements – but ongoing diversity education that enables employees to learn more about themselves and their coworkers. They learn how to leverage the differences to drive innovation. And employees learn what they have in common, which builds trust and empathy. Employee resource groups are excellent at helping to build organizational competency and to create a safe space for employees to express their true selves and develop a sense of belonging. Leaders who intentionally build diverse teams and show appreciation for diverse perspectives also create team cultures where employees are invested and thrive.
If companies, leaders, and teams address trust (alignment with words and actions), the employer-employee relationship as partners, and cultural competency, then I believe they can build a culture of inclusion where employees can be their true selves and have a sense of belonging.
Now what about you, specifically? How can you be your authentic self at work and thrive?
7 tips to being your authentic self at work:
- Know your personal values and how your values align with the company’s values. If there is an irreconcilable mismatch in values, you will struggle to be your authentic self at work.
- Know your role and responsibilities and how the work you do fits into the bigger picture. Develop your skills. When you feel confident in your job and have a track record of success, you are more likely to speak up and share your unique perspectives.
- Be curious about coworkers who are different from you. Try to get to know them and find what you have in common and how you can leverage your differences. Ask questions, with care and compassion, and listen to others. Over time, you’ll build trust and feel comfortable being your authentic self.
- Step outside your comfort zone. Take on different assignments that allow you to work in another department or team, get to know people you wouldn’t naturally work with. This broadens your perspective and network.
- Leave the need to be perfect. Accept that you’ll make mistakes, and they are opportunities to learn and grow. When you feel you can’t make a mistake, you will place extra pressure on yourself and will feel you have to live up to a “perfect” image.
- Start small. Showing up authentically sounds wonderful, but it can also be scary. There is a vulnerability to being your authentic self at work. Start with one person or a small circle with whom you have something in common then branch out over time.
- Realize that being your authentic self at work does not mean that everyone is entitled to your personal life. Only share what you are comfortable sharing.
I believe if you follow these seven tips, you’ll be on your way to being your authentic self at work and thriving.
Thanks for reading and being a part of the Your Aha! Life Global Community. I hope you found this article helpful, and that you will try one or more of the tips to become your authentic self at work.
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With love and authenticity,
Learn My Story