Authenticity in the workplace has great benefits for business. When we are authentic, we behave according to our ‘whole selves’ – warts and all.
When we feel we cannot be authentic, we are likely to moderate what we say and how we behave according to perceived norms and expectations. We are more likely to withhold what we feel and express only those thoughts and behaviours that are considered ‘safe’. For the individual, this can result in unhappiness, fatigue, considerable stress and feelings of frustration and oppression. The implications for an organisation might be obvious: unhappy, unmotivated and unenergised employees affects business performance, quality of work, retention issues and increased costs due to sickness. Then, what about the ‘hunches’ regarding potential business risks and issues that remain unspoken?
Our experiences influence our perception of how authentic we can comfortably be. We all desire authenticity, because it is less stressful and allows our true strengths to emerge and flourish. Our sense of psychological safety – that sense of being trusted, respected and accepted for who we are, is a critical factor in developing authenticity. Google’s research in the last decade revealed how important it really is for business.
Not all workplaces and cultures make being authentic easy. You know the type: the workplaces where one’s appearance is judged and possibly discriminated against; where bullying is part of the modus operandi; where speaking up results in being side-lined or ostracised; the places where decisions and judgments are made about our beliefs, opinions and style. Even when these practices are not institutional, they can be in pockets or because of a single person. It takes a special kind of courage to be authentic under these conditions.
In research published by the journal Personality and Individual Differences, the relationship between workplace authenticity, job satisfaction and job performance were examined by a team of researchers from the University of Waikato in New Zealand. Using over 36,500 participant observations, the researchers then correlated between these measures and found that authenticity at work was associated with higher levels of wellbeing and employee engagement, and that impact of workplace authenticity on employee engagement and wellbeing did not differ significantly by age.
However, the impact observed was affected by culture. Anna Sutton, who led the research, stated, “In collectivist cultures, an increasing tendency to be true to oneself may come into conflict with a cultural norm of putting the interests of the group above one’s own.” Examples of collectivist cultures are those in China, Korea and Japan.
How Neurotech improves authenticity
Truthsayers, a global tech firm based in the UK, developed Neurotech to enable workers to communicate their feelings, and to enable leaders to listen in a structured way. The technology is based on the Implicit Reaction Time (IRT) methodology, developed with neuroscientists and psychologists; it uses a different method for assessing our attitudes towards a subject by bypassing our conscious thought processing and instead measuring our non-conscious, automatic responses. Call it our gut-feelings.
When this happens, our whole selves are being represented, anonymously and securely, untarnished by moderation. The method implicitly measures our actual attitudes, and when applied to teams, demographics and whole organisations, it characterises our collected authentic viewpoint. The data generated through this method is quantitative – leaders can take action on the issues that are the most acute, or most different from what was previously understood.
Organisations and employees don’t need special equipment to take part – only an internet-enabled device such as a laptop, tablet or smartphone and a range of accessibility options are available.
by Simon Stapleton, Director and Co-Founder of Truthsayers
DIRECTOR & CO-FOUNDER OF TRUTHSAYERS
Simon is a specialist platform builder with over 22 years’ experience initiating, leading and delivering transformational change for global and SME businesses through innovative applications. He helps leaders articulate and realise their vision to mobilise and automate business processes, at scale, through technology.