BEING YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF AT WORKHR
Kierra Holroyd, Talent Acquisition Recruiter
One of my favorite analogies when it comes to defining diversity and inclusion is, “Diversity is being invited to the dance; inclusion is feeling comfortable enough to show off your moves.” I say it a lot, because it is so apt. I can also feel my team rolling their eyes at me saying it yet again. While we are striving to create some impactful D+I programming here at Octagon, we recognize that none of it will stick if the environment we are creating is not inherently inclusive. We took this so much to heart that we began calling it “Inclusive Diversity”.
The success of inclusive diversity depends on individual employees feeling comfortable enough to bust out that running man, or (here’s where I abandon the dance metaphor for now) be a bit closer to their authentic selves. As a member of a few intersecting groups that an organization might seek to include (Black, woman, working mother) I can tell you it’s often hard to give up the defenses you put up to navigate a work environment, especially when your workplace is encouraging you to be your authentic self.
You might ask, “Do they really want to see all of it?” Yes, they do. But while there is lots of research on why being your authentic self at work will make you happier, a better performer, etc. there isn’t much out there on how to… well, be you at work.
Here are some tips to showing up at work as your authentic self:
Own it from Day 1 – Maybe no one like you has ever come along, and that’s ok. You’ll find that while it might be tricky at first, it ends up being an easier transition if you start out being authentic instead of testing the waters. One of my colleagues hates mayonnaise. I couldn’t imagine her not letting you know if you were in charge of ordering lunch. Be like Mary and let people know you hate mayonnaise upfront.
Adapt, but don’t apologize – My voice carries. You can probably hear it from here. I used to apologize profusely for being too loud and try my hardest to speak in a subdued whisper. But not only did apologizing harm my executive presence, it also messed with my self-esteem. Was I not a professional because I’m bad at speaking softly? Instead of continuing to beat myself up, I learned to be more aware of my voice and the situations that called for me to adopt a stagey whisper, and try not to worry about the rest.
Be open to answering questions about yourself - People may find you interesting! As long as the questions aren’t offensive or invasive, try to be open to educating others on something new. If you feel yourself fatigued about the inquiries that come your way, direct them to another member of your tribe who might be open to answering. This is also a great opportunity to show others that your identifying group isn’t a monolith, and that getting additional perspectives can be even more enlightening.
Celebrate yourself and others - Bring your cultures, values or traditions to work with you as well as the joy you take in honoring them. Invite others to share with you or even offer their perspective. In the same vein, participate in other celebrations that resonate with you and show your respect for other cultures. Be the attitude you want to see. If you want to be supported in being yourself, show up for your other coworkers doing the same. You might even be the example someone else needs to start coming out of his or her shell.
If you don’t see it, start it - Octagon and IPG have lots of employee resource groups that cater to different groups, but they are by no means exhaustive. The same may be true at your organization. Lead the charge and create the group or program that acknowledges you. Even if it’s the “No Mayo Club” (get it?), you’ll find that someone has been waiting for something just like this to come along.
Creating true inclusive diversity is a challenge which can be uncomfortable at times. Remember that a great organization will make you feel like you’re all in this together. While showing up to work as your authentic self is a task only you can undertake, your workplace should make you feel supported and encouraged. Cue the orchestra and show us your next right move!
Have more tips on being your authentic self at work? We’d love to hear them. Send them over to firstname.lastname@example.org.