“Be true to yourself,” “Be authentic,” “Be transparent”. It’s what we hear all the time.
Its how we are supposed to act everywhere we go. But let’s be honest, that advice is not meant for the workplace.
When we preach authenticity, what we are really evangelizing is the transparency of someone’s positive traits. We don’t really mean the bad stuff. After all, no one wants to work with someone moody and aggressive do they?
What employers often want is someone who is agreeable, keeps their head down, doesn’t question too many things, and has a positive attitude. This may or may not be you. It definitely isn’t me. And as a lot of us know, being insincere in the workplace can have an alienating effect.
It begins before our first day on the job
For most of us being phony in the workplace isn’t too hard to pull off. And why should it be since our disingenuousness begins before our first day. It begins in the interview. Is who we present in an interview really who we are? Or are we just cleverly trying to project the most likeable candidate?
There is no shortage of advice on how we should act, and what we should say in job interviews. “Don’t cross your arms,” “Ask these three questions,” or ”Be as enthusiastic as possible”.
Common sense? Or image crafting?
Regardless, it should come to no surprise that a lot of employers end up scratching their heads questioning who they hired. And we wonder why we have a turnover problem?
When the real us isn’t the perfect candidate
Last month a friend of mine interviewed at a company he really wanted to work for. When I asked him how the interview went he grimaced and said, “Well, let’s just say they got the real me!”
The real “him” is lovely. His laugh is piercing loud. And when he gets nervous his voice goes up a few octaves and he makes silly jokes. He also sweats a lot. He’s pretty much everything someone isn’t ‘supposed to be in an interview; yet he is always himself. And no, he didn’t get the job.
Sure there could have been a lot of different reasons why, but I’m guessing it has more to do with him revealing his true self and not conforming to what the ideal candidate looks like.
So is it better to fake it?
I want to badly believe that fakers get nowhere in life. And that by bringing our whole selves to the office that we will connect to our work and each other on a more meaningful level. Authenticity should give us the greatest job satisfaction. And maybe it does.
But happiness at work doesn’t always mean success. And when I look around at those who have achieved the most and gone the farthest they tend to also be the least genuine too.
Coincidence? Not really. Research actually validates this.
There is evidence that suggests that people who present themselves as warm and competent are more likely to be liked. Also, those who act more confident are more likely to be successful.
And what if this just isn’t you?
Thankfully, there are still opportunities for those of us unwilling to conform. It’s called freelancing. Sure, there is still a customer to please at the end of the day, but you can always decide whether or not to accept a project. You are also more likely to work alone, so there is no ideal to conform to or coworkers to win over.
At the end of the day we all need to decide what matters most. Being successful? Or being ourselves. Let’s hope it can be both.