by Deanna Parkton
Work-life balance has become a trending topic over the years, as people work to find ways to integrate their personal lives and professional lives. It is worth reflecting on the fact that the 40-hour workweek started during a time when the cultural norm was that one individual in the household (typically a man) would work and the other spouse (typically a woman) would be responsible for homemaking and child rearing. Since then, cultural norms have shifted quite a bit. Among married-couple families with children, 96.5 percent had at least one employed parent in 2021, and in 62.3 percent of these families both parents were employed. With a fair percentage of American families with two full-time working parents, it is no wonder that talking about work-life balance has become a staple in our modern culture.
We would be remiss to talk about work-life balance without talking about being authentic at work. As workplace culture has allowed for more transparent and honest conversations, authenticity has gotten a well-deserved spotlight. The leader who openly discusses the challenges that the organization is facing earns more respect than the leader who hides the company’s challenges and avoids any hard conversations. Authenticity relates to being open and sharing – which has earned many a CEO kudos for their vulnerability and transparency.
Communication expert Susan McPherson shared her ideas about authenticity for the Harvard Business Review with the reminder, “There is no “work self.” There was a time when people would separate their lives between “the work self” and “the personal life self” – with the work self being the more serious and guarded self. Seeing all the people that you interact with at work as human with their own vulnerabilities allows you to open up and be more authentic. This creates more connection and community in your professional life which has been proven to lead to an increase in job performance and reduction in turnover risk.
The research around authenticity at work has proven positive as well. BetterUp, an organization focused on helping people live with greater clarity, purpose and passion found seven benefits of authenticity:
- 140% increase in employee engagement
- 50% increase in team performance
- 90% increase in team innovation
- 54% lower turnover
- 150% increase in belonging
- It helps people build their authentic personal brand
- It helps people find their purpose — and live with greater purpose, clarity, and passion
The key to being authentic at work is to share your feelings and show vulnerability while also setting boundaries. Sharing something about your personal life that is important to you is being authentic. Setting the boundary that you are not available past a certain time due to a commitment in your personal life is being authentic. Expressing how you feel about a challenging project is being authentic.
A 2022 Forbes article on authenticity also recommended asking the questions that you want the answers to. “How many times have you wanted to know something, but you were afraid of asking the question to obtain the information? … Ask why you weren’t invited to a meeting. Ask why your team’s budget wasn’t increased. … When asking questions, be factual and not emotional or defensive. … You may not like the answer you receive. By asking the questions and knowing the answers, you will protect yourself from making assumptions that can undermine team dynamics.”
Authenticity allows us to question the status quo and stand up for what is right even when it seems difficult. That being said, being authentic is not a free pass to inappropriate or unprofessional behavior, but an invitation to have candid and open conversations in a productive way. As a wise person once said, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” Being mindful of keeping professionalism and ensuring that you are trying to make a situation better than you found it is crucial in approaching difficult situations.
Authenticity is being ourselves at work: celebrating the good, while addressing the not-so-good in order to make things better for all.
To learn more, check out our blogs related to authenticity, vulnerability, and building community at work:
Community and Connection in the Workplace: Why It Matters and How To Build It
Recognizing the Power of Emotions at Work
Small Talk is Bigger Than You Think
For more ideas on how you can strategize your work, consider working with a career coach. A coach can help you identify strategies to face challenges head on. Check out our executive coaching services and sign up for a free consultation here.
Deanna Parkton is a writer, career coach and educator with a passion for professional development and work wellness and happiness. With a focus on self-reflection, she works with individuals in their quest to reach their career goals as well as satisfaction in work-life balance. You can find more of her writing at workinglivingwell.comand she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.