There’s a lot of conversation these days about the importance of showing up at work as your real self. In fact, Resilience & Authenticity was the central theme of the 2021 Simmons Leadership Conference, and authenticity in the workplace was the topic of several keynote addresses and panel discussions. As yet, there is very little data out there offering insight into what being authentic actually means, or what its impact is on individuals, managers, and organizations. So we decided to survey 6,725 people who registered for this year’s Leadership Conference to hear their thoughts. Below you’ll find our top five takeaways.
1. Happiness and Productivity
According to our respondents, those who are able to be authentic at work feel more confident, more engaged, and happier. This translated to a greater sense of effectiveness and productivity. Authentic individuals are also more likely to go above and beyond for their organization. As one survey respondent observed: “It is easier to be genuine than to keep a front on. I feel like I am more productive when I don’t have to put on airs in order to be accepted.”
Our survey results showed that staff who feel free to be genuine at work have a greater sense of job satisfaction. They feel more inspired, better about themselves, and better about where they work. They build stronger relationships with colleagues and are more committed to staying with their organization.
Honesty was cited as the top-most important personal quality defining an individual’s authenticity by a significant margin — over twice as many times as the second- and third-most cited qualities of transparency and openness. Combined, these three words represent over 40% of all responses and allude to the importance of personal integrity and positive impact. According to one survey respondent: “Authenticity does not mean we should be unprofessional.”
4. Effective Leadership
Our study clearly shows that a manager’s authenticity contributes significantly to the ability of individual team members to show up as their real selves on the job. In fact, over 70% of our survey respondents felt encouraged to be genuine by the authenticity modeled by their managers.
Organizational support also plays a significant role in the ability of individual team members to be authentic. Not surprisingly, we found a statistically significant relationship between organizations that encourage a respondent to be authentic at work and the respondent’s ability to be authentic. In the words of one respondent: “The company I work for values the sharing of ideas without risk so there is less of a need to not be authentic.”
Our study The Importance of Authenticity in the Workplace highlights many other findings. Some results you might expect — 93% of survey respondents agreed that being authentic at work was important — while others came as more of a surprise to our researchers – gender, race, and ethnicity do not appear to impede the ability to be authentic at work. You can download the entire report in the Research & Insights section of the Simmons University for Institute for Inclusive Leadership website. Also included in the report is a set of authenticity-building tools for both individuals and organizations, based on data derived from the study, insights gained from its results, and suggestions offered by our respondents.
Bottom line: Our study on authenticity in the workplace clearly shows that it’s good for organizations to cultivate cultures where both managers and team members are able to show up as their real selves. Over time, these organizations benefit from increased team loyalty, job satisfaction, and productivity.