Authenticity at work

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a workshop about being authentic at work.  The workshop was run by Inclusive Recruiting, an organisation who aim to eradicate bias and inequities from the workplace and was presented by Andreena Leeanne, a lived experience speaker, self-care workshop facilitator, poet and author. This blog post was inspired by that workshop.

What does it mean to be authentic

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word authentic as ‘of undisputed origin and not a copy: genuine.’ The word has traditionally been applied to documents, works of art or antiques, however more recently the word has been applied to people, who are seen as authentic or fake, particularly in a work setting or online. Think Chandler Bing’s work laugh in Friends and you get the idea.

In this recent context, being an authentic person means knowing who you are and what you stand for and creating a space for yourself in the world where you feel happy and confident to be yourself at all times – a space where you can be unapologetically you, showing your personality and being the same at work as you are away from it.

Sounds easy huh? However many people have experienced situations where they feel unable to be themselves. You may, like Chandler, have felt you need to act a certain way around your boss and colleagues, telling people what you think they want to hear, so that you will be liked, accepted or promoted. You may have hidden aspects of yourself and developed survival mechanisms to get through the day, so instead of being yourself, you have played a role. It can be exhausting and in doing so you are living inauthentically.

In order to be authentic you need to identify and live according to your values and be willing to live your life proudly, displaying your true colours, regardless of pressure you may be under to act otherwise. Being authentic isn’t easy. People may fear rejection, getting hurt or being ridiculed, so the fear of being judged and the need to fit in often prevents this. However, authenticity has many benefits for both employers and employees. 

Benefits of being authentic

  • Relationships
    People who are able to be their authentic self, tend to attract people to them. Honest, open, character traits generally make it easier for people to trust and build long term relationships with you and in return they will be more likely to be the same with you.
  • Love what you do
    A passion for work is more likely to lead to success than doing work you don’t enjoy. Following your passions will enable you to do what you love, leaving you motivated and eager to achieve.
  • Confidence
    If you are being authentic at work, it will enable you to be more productive, confident in your opinions, happy to share your ideas and unafraid to speak up.
  • Happiness
    If you are happy in your work because you have good working relationships, you are confident in your role and you love what you do, you will feel safe and secure in your working environment. 

Overall being authentic is much more fulfilling than trying to be the person you think other people will approve of or trying to please everyone. As the saying goes ‘You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.’

The other side of the story

Despite its potential benefits, oversharing or being overly honest can have a downside, obviously there are socially acceptable norms to consider and there are people who will take advantage of a kind and open nature. Also, while much of authenticity is about individuals knowing themselves and being comfortable with who they are, in order to be their authentic self, employees need to feel safe, therefore it is the responsibility of employers to create safe environments which bring out the best in their employees too. 

Employer honesty is integral to developing an authentic work culture. Shouting from the roof tops about diversity and discrimination, is all worthless, if when faced with the people they claim to support, the employer does nothing to support them. In order to create inclusive environments where employees can be their authentic self, employers need to be able to walk the walk, as well as talk the talk, so as to uphold their own values.

From the Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan.

Some of the ways employers can create safe spaces include: 

  • leading with empathy at all times 
  • not making assumptions about people
  • listening and responding to feedback 
  • creating safe spaces for difficult conversations 
  • using educational material and events to encourage authenticity and inclusivity at all times 
  • creating opportunities for people to be their authentic self
  • establishing buddying and mentoring initiatives
  • supporting personal and professional development 
  • offering learning opportunities, coaching and mentoring 
  • investing in leaders. 

Tips for being authentic 

Think you would like to be more authentic at work? Below are some things to try out.

  • Identify your values and aim to live by them at all times.
  • Identify who you are and don’t try to be someone that you are not. If you feel there is a difference between who you are at work and who you are outside of it, consider what you can do to bridge the gap.
  • Communicate honestly, respect the feelings of others but don’t play games or use passive aggressive behaviour to get what you want and don’t make promises you cannot keep.
  • Develop self confidence – being authentic is not for the faint hearted. Developing a strong sense of yourself and being assertive, will give you the necessary tools to get you through challenging situations.

What are your thoughts on authenticity at work? Do you consider yourself to be an authentic person or do you have different versions of yourself for different people and situations? Want to learn more about the subject, take a look at the websites below.


Further information

© Toni Louise Abram at Izzy Wizzy. All Rights Reserved.

Online abuse and its impacts

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a workshop about online abuse and it impacts, which formed part of the 17th University of Chester Diversity Festival. Established in 2006, the Diversity Festival gives attendees an opportunity to investigate, question and debate issues around diversity and equality in Britain and in the world at large. Each year the festival provides a focus through which the university actively promotes, challenges and develops an understanding of equality, diversity and multiculturalism. This year the theme was ‘Rebuilding and Rethinking Equality’.

Illustration of different colour people forming a wheel shape.
Image by Geralt on Pixabay.

The session was funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire and run by Glitch, an award winning UK charity aiming to end online abuse. Glitch provide training, research and workshops, with the aim of building  an online world that is safer for all and to encourage people to use the internet in appropriate and responsible ways. Their work has a particular focus on women and marginalised people and in three key areas namely:

  • Awareness 
    Using campaigns and collaborations with partners, including universities, corporates and other charities.
  • Advocacy
    Working closely with the major social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and TikTok, to  influence their policies and hold them to account when needed, as well as helping public institutions create better legislation to prevent and address online abuse.
  • Action
    Believing everyone needs to feel confident when navigating online and offline spaces,  especially women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by discrimination and taking action through educational work to break down complex topics including online hate speech and online gender-based violence.

What is online abuse

Online abuse is any type of behaviour that is intimidating or violent online, whether that be hate speech, targeting marginalised communities, racism or sexism. It includes a range of tactics and malicious behaviours ranging from sharing embarrassing or cruel content about a person, to impersonation and stalking, child pornography, copyright infringements, data theft, defamation, emotional harm, libel and privacy infringements. The purpose of online abuse differs with every incidence but usually is done embarrass, humiliate, scare, threaten, silence or extort. 

During the workshop I learned how to:

  • define online abuse and online gender-based violence
  • recognise types and tactics of online abuse
  • describe the impact of online gender based violence for different groups.
Image by the Women’s Media Center showing types of online abuse, tactics and impacts of abuse.

Online harms  bill

The workshop was timely as the UK Government is currently proposing new legislation to keep people safe online with the Online Harms Bill, which will seek to tackle access to harmful material online. Proposed measures include criminalising the sending of unsolicited sexual images to people using social media, known as cyber-flashing, giving people the right to appeal if they feel their social media posts were removed unfairly, preventing online scams, such as paid-for fraudulent adverts, investment fraud and romance scammers and requiring pornography websites to verify their users’ ages. It would also give Ofcom the power to fine firms or block access to sites that fail to comply with the new rules. However, the bill doesn’t even mention women and girls, who experience abuse disproportionately online. You can learn more about the bill and add your voice to the call to change by visiting the Change.Org website and signing the petition.


Reporting online abuse

Seen something online that makes you uncomfortable? Online abuse can be reported to social media and webhosting providers. It can also be reported to the organisations below.

Further information and sources

© Toni Louise Abram at Izzy Wizzy. All Rights Reserved.