Being yourself in business is a common struggle that many people face. It remains a challenge for many that feel “putting on a show” is the way to grow your client base, and maintain peace with your co-workers.
Consider this scenario of Jane and Jennifer.
Jane is exactly who she wants to be in the office. She is loud and crass and feels nothing for laughing at her colleagues’ expense. She has no filter and feels nothing for interrupting others. She is hard with her clients and is focused on driving sales in any which manner, to meet margins and make deadlines. Jane believes that her level of authenticity allows for people to work with her on a level that holds no facades – you get what you get.
Jennifer is also her authentic self at work, but she manages to control her impulses and consider the feelings of those around her. She is able to hold back and listen to others even when she disagrees.
Both Jane and Jennifer feel strongly about a recent incident, but Jennifer is considerate of others, in how she handles it. Her level of respect and kindness emanate her core values and lead to her being promoted over Jane.
What is the key takeaway here?
Respect in your authenticity.
Truly bringing your genuine self to work means that you’ll have to remember that being respectful is at the forefront of your behaviour. This includes being respectful of those you may feel are ignorant, rude and even outright awful. Why? Because your behaviour will say more about you than it will about others.
Your ability to be respectful will demonstrate trustworthiness. Colleagues and clients feel that they can be honest and direct with you because they trust in your authenticity as a fellow person. Having an open stream of communication also allows people to be authentic with you too.
When you are authentic, you create your own pathway that is different from the rest of the workplace. You allow yourself to contribute positively to an environment that can benefit from what you truly have to offer.
Of course, there are going to be many situations that you are going to feel strongly opposed to, and nobody wants to feel that their thoughts are misaligned to their beliefs. But if you are able to express your voice respectfully, more weight and credit is given to your thoughts and ideas. Consider Jane, she is constantly running her mouth off to others and is unable to effectively communicate clearly, and instead shouts out a series of useless words. Soon she is ignored, or her tirades are given less weight. However, when Jennifer speaks, she does so with thought and caution. Her words are considered and direct – she may ruffle a few feathers, but her words are going to have more value and weight that Janes.
This may all seem a little daunting, or perhaps you are the Jennifer and think there is no way a little respect is going to make any difference in your industry – but sometimes being vulnerable and having the courage to act with respect, can align others with the truth of who you really are. This demonstrates confidence, character and develops trust in you as a co-worker, allowing for you to become stronger and less vulnerable.
Perhaps you are more of a Susan and don’t really want to say too much, you appreciate Jennifer and you tolerate Jane – but you are Susan. Some people find it harder to be themselves at work, but the more authentic you are the more of a contribution you will make. Susan also has ideas and perspectives that can be of value to the business.
And if this isn’t enough, research has shown that there is a link between happiness and authenticity. I am sure the critic inside of you has plenty to say about what you have just read, especially because you probably feel that the only way to maintain clients is to be perfect, an expert and a professional. But did you know that sales are driven by consumer loyalty?
And how do we gain loyalty? By being respectfully authentic. Colleagues and clients don’t want to hear about your offering or service, they want to work with the real you. Not the loud and rude Jane, not the shy Susan with no opinions – the respectful, professional and authentic Jennifer. They trust Jennifer.
Let your behaviour shift to being empowered, and aligned with authenticity and respect. Step into your unique personality as a colleague, an employee and a business owner – even if it means being out of your comfort zone.
Ask yourself, “What would my authentic version of Jennifer look like in my working environment?”