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Encouraged Inauthenticity in the Workplace

Having recent discussions with new and old friends about a topic many of us have been covering for decades grabbed my attention again.

Being our whole selves at work.

I remember being pretty stunned at my first job about a lot of things that were long accepted in the workplace. I write a lot about them; this time I want to focus on our wholeness.

Some comments like this where openly uttered at the time:

Wear your “man’s hat” when you come to the office

Bring only your professional self to work

And all the subliminal ones that were not spoken, but felt:

Emotions are not accepted; you have them in your personal life; you hide them at work

Crying? That looks so weak, so unprofessional; it certainly has no place in the office

If somebody is sick at home, you do everything not to skip work; we don’t care how

Left-brain skills are rewarded more, so bring more of that and hide the rest

And some of this: “She is mean at the office, but actually such a sweet person in real life.”

These all sounded ludicrous to me even 30 years ago.

It was more than OK to be a different person at work and in real life, always separated somehow. I was forced not to bring my soft side to work. But what if that is my best side? How come I was going to hide it where I spend most of my waking hours?

It was crazy to see many people with high IQ to be rewarded who also had horrible people skills. They were not “successful” people in my mind or in my heart. I will never forget how happy I was when Daniel Goldman came out with EQ. I vividly remember thinking “finally different skill sets and talents of so many more can be recognized as well”.

So basically majority of organizations want you to “pretend” and “act” at work and be somebody you are not.

I found a new phrase for it: “encouraged inauthenticity”.

Variations of these sentiments still exist everywhere. We see it; we feel it.

People are tired of being actors though. They want to be themselves everywhere!

I experienced both sides too. I worked at places where I had to pretend and then at a small business where I was able to bring my whole self to work every day. It felt so different: I felt like myself all the time. It was a feeling of freedom. I realized all that extra energy hiding myself could be used for something better at work. That was the best job I had even if I made less money. That was when I realized what made previous harder was not my tasks but trying to hold back parts of who I am.

We all know encouraged authenticity never works. It does not work for you not the organization you work for. If you just had a bad day at home, you are bringing it with you. If your baby is sick, you may not be able to focus 100% at work. We are not physically or emotionally separable. When we are forced, we get physically sick. It has a toll on us.

Just as wellness programs started because work places put so much stress on people, authenticity discussions got momentum because work has enforced inauthenticity way too long.

As brilliant Frederic Laloux tells in his book Reinventing Organizations about Teal Organizations, the breakthroughs are 1) Self-management 2) Wholeness 3) Evolutionary Purpose

He says this about Wholeness:

“Organizations has always been places that encourage people to show up with a narrow “professional” self and to check all parts of the self at the door.…. Rationality is the king, while the emotional, intuitive, and spiritual parts of ourselves are often feel unwelcome, out of place. Teal organizations…reclaim our inner wholeness and bring all of who we are to work.

If we are a conscious leader, if we really want people to tap into their best source of energy and talents, it is best to allow everyone to be truly authentic and bring their whole self to work.

Even during Covid-19, it was beautiful to see children popping up on Zoom screens, moms deciding how to divide their day between their children at work instead of having strict work hours, people not looking so professional on screens every day. This is real life; it is beautiful. It is not perfect and it is who we are.

We have to let go of this need to act; it has been a big burden on all of us.

This article was published originally at

We are born to be ourselves wherever we go.

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