In today's professional landscape, the concept of bringing one's authentic self to work has gained significant attention. Many individuals are seeking ways to foster deeper connections and achieve career success by showcasing their true identity in the workplace. However, striking the right balance between being authentic and maintaining professionalism can be a challenge.
Today we will delve into the importance of forming genuine connections, explore strategies for sharing your authentic self in a professional setting, and emphasize the significance of setting boundaries.
Seeing Everyone as Human Beings
To truly share your authentic self at work, it is essential to shift your mindset and view every interaction as an opportunity to connect on a human level, rather than solely as a transaction. By recognizing the humanity in others, you open the door to building deeper relationships that can contribute to your growth and success.
Imagine you are attending a networking event where you typically view conversations as transactional opportunities. Instead, try to approach each interaction with a genuine curiosity about the person you are speaking with. Ask open-ended questions, actively listen, and seek common ground. By doing so, you transform the conversation into a more meaningful and authentic exchange.
Building authentic connections requires nurturing relationships beyond the confines of professional needs. One powerful tool for achieving this is active listening. By genuinely paying attention to other people's interests and passions, you demonstrate your investment in their lives. This can be as simple as remembering a colleague's favorite hobby or following up on a conversation about their personal goals. These small gestures show that you value them as individuals beyond their professional contributions.
Suppose you have a colleague who is passionate about environmental sustainability. During a lunch break, they mention their involvement in a local nonprofit organization focused on conservation efforts. Following up on this conversation, you come across an article about renewable energy and forward it to your colleague with a note expressing your interest in their cause. This small gesture shows your genuine interest and strengthens your connection beyond the confines of work-related matters.
While it is important to share your authentic self, it is equally crucial to set boundaries. Vulnerability should be reserved for those relationships that have proven deserving and trustworthy. Not everyone in the workplace needs to witness your vulnerability. Focus your energy on cultivating relationships that energize and inspire you, as these connections will provide the support and understanding necessary for your personal and professional growth.
As you become more comfortable sharing your authentic self, it is crucial to discern which relationships should receive a deeper level of vulnerability. For example, you may have a mentor or a close colleague who has consistently supported you and shown a genuine interest in your growth. These individuals have earned the privilege of seeing your vulnerability, as they provide a safe space for personal expression and offer valuable guidance.
Striking the balance between sharing your authentic self and maintaining professionalism is a delicate art. By adopting a mindset that sees everyone as human beings, nurturing relationships beyond professional needs, and setting boundaries, you can create a work environment that fosters genuine connections and personal growth. Remember, authenticity is a powerful tool that, when used wisely and sustainably, can propel your career to new heights.
Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.