Mar 2022-2
Hi, there

Real talk: do your coworkers know the real you? And perhaps more importantly, should they know the real you?

With remote and hybrid work blurring the boundaries between our work selves and our real selves, authenticity has also become a major buzzword in the corporate world. After 2 years of taking Zoom meetings in pajamas and wondering to what extent we need to angle the camera away from the nerdy paraphernalia adorning our bedroom walls (just me?), there’s a growing debate about the value of bringing your whole self to work. 

Authenticity in the workplace is held up by many as the key to fostering happier, more effective, more innovative teams, and essential for life satisfaction in general. But is it really so simple as just being yourself with your coworkers? What does the evidence say about the benefits of authenticity in professional settings? We dug into the data to paint a fuller picture: where authenticity helps people, where it doesn’t, and some other things we may want to focus on instead.

Until next time,

Katie and the team @ TDL
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Today’s topics 👀
🔎 Viewpoints: The Truth About Authenticity
🌊 Deep Dive: Building A Better Work Culture
🔎 Viewpoints
The Truth About Authenticity

Feeling pressured to conform hurts engagement and performance. When people have to “fake it” to fit in with the dominant workplace culture, they become less engaged and less productive. This can be especially draining for minority employees and  neurodivergent employees.

Successful people tend to share more with their teams. A survey of office workers found that high-performing teams were more likely to report sharing positive and negative emotions with their coworkers.Screen Shot 2022-03-16 at 9.57.42 AM

Data from Front.

Workers perform best when they’re allowed to be themselves. A recent study found that remote employees were most engaged with their jobs when they wore casual, comfy clothes to work. Another point in favor of authenticity! But there’s a catch… 

Authenticity may not be helpful unless you’re already a high-performer. In a 2017 study, researchers found that authenticity increased the chances of getting hired — but only for the very best applicants. For the rest, authenticity was at best neutral, and for the lowest quartile of candidates, it was detrimental.

Bias can affect how authenticity is perceived by others. For instance, while men who showcase their “authentic” selves at work tend to be rewarded for it, women may be penalized for displaying vulnerability or cracking jokes. Meanwhile, 50% of managers in the UK say they would not hire neurodivergent talent, creating a substantial incentive for such employees to hide their “true selves” at work.

In-group Bias
Our unconscious tendency to give preferential treatment to people who belong to the same group as we do, or who otherwise resemble us in some way. This bias could create an atmosphere that encourages conformity at work. Read more on our website.
🌊 Deep Dive
Building A Better Work Culture

All of the above suggests that authenticity is not, in and of itself, a meaningful goal to strive for when it comes to organizational culture. That’s not to say that the ability to be authentic at work isn’t a good thing — people do feel and work the best when they’re allowed to be themselves. The problem is that our “true” selves are perceived by others in ways that may be biased, which means that not everybody benefits equally from leaning into authenticity.

Instead of focusing exclusively on authenticity, here are some other concepts to build into workplace wellness strategies.

Psychological safety. A psychologically safe atmosphere is one where employees know that they’ll have the space to ask questions, make mistakes, and diverge from the status quo without fear of negative consequences. Leaders can help make work a psychologically safe place by providing employees with flexibility to work in the way that best suits them, and by developing a set of strategies to manage conflict and difficult situations in a more compassionate way.

Diversity. Meaning diversity in background, experiences, personality, neurotype, and so on. The more homogenous an organization is along any of these dimensions, the more difficult it will be for any one person to deviate from the norm. Updating your hiring procedures to eliminate bias is a crucial first step towards building a workplace culture where everybody can truly be themselves. 

Intellectual humility. Discomfort with interpersonal difference can feed a culture of conformity, and pressure workers to keep dissenting viewpoints to themselves. By contrast, intellectual humility — recognizing the limits of one’s own perspective and knowledge — may help people become more open to learning about people who hold different views. Leaders can help their teams become more intellectually humble by fostering a growth mindset, and by rewarding the courage to admit mistakes.

Humanizing the workplace
On The Decision Corner podcast, we talked to consultant and author Ryan Stelzer about how organizations can harness the insights of psychology, philosophy, and cognitive science to create healthier & happier workplace cultures. Listen on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Opportunities in behavioral science
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