Authenticity at Work – The Antidote to Acting

I have noticed a growing trend in the workplace that has concerned me now for several years. I will label it simply as “acting”. Other synonyms come to mind; dramatizing, feigning, imitating, posing, posturing, pretending, and showing off. I do not intend to finger point or cast judgment on anyone who has found themselves acting; it has become commonplace in certain corporate cultures which demand that their employees behave in a particular way, which amounts to acting. Acting is the opposite of reality! This means and implies that certain cultures do not want individuals to be their authentic selves at work, but rather act in a way, i.e., pretend that you bring your best self to work. 

I’m certain that when we hire new employees, we aren’t looking for good actors (unless you’re auditioning for a part in a movie). We have a “real” job that needs be done, and we want an individual with the requisite skills and hopefully just as important, an individual who is a good cultural fit. To avoid falling into the miserable trap or worse, creating the prison of acting-at work, I like to suggest a few antidotes.

Remain Authentic – Be Real

At times we can experience immense pressure to play politics, behaving in a way which our peers and superiors expect. This is the very problem which I believe leads to more problems than solutions. When we act, unless we are sociopaths, we are neither authentic nor congruent with our true selves. Less this sound like psychobabble, I’m suggesting that we are lying to ourselves when with behave in a way which lacks authenticity — the way we think of “people pleasers”.  As psychologist Richard Boyatzis says of this type of behavior, “… in mild forms it’s dissociation. In major forms it’s called psychosis. It’s unhealthy.” It is imperative that one has the ability to discern if the organization or team you are on is more concerned with your authentic contribution or your conformity and compliance. 

Getting the Right things done.

Peter Drucker the greatest business and management philosopher of the twentieth century reminds us to ask ourselves the question, what am I getting paid to do? Even the most jaded and unenlightened boss would recognize that no organization wants to pay people for what a colleague of mine calls ‘fake work’. We want real, tangible deliverables, engaged contributors who have the capability of making our organizations better and quite possibly great.

So what does one say to managers and employees who prefer compliance over engagement? It is an unfortunate reality that the primary focus of most large corporations is creating a culture of compliance and not one of employee engagement. Within the US workforce, disengaged cost $300 billion in lost productivity alone, according to a study by Gallup. 

Leaders need to declare war on autocratic and draconian practices which drain the very soul of the organization, not to mention to killing profits. Whether the organization adopts a cutting edge model like Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), or an approach which allows employees control over their schedules, I suggest we revisit our business sage Peter Drucker. In his book, The Effective Executive, he suggest returning to basics such as getting the right things done, eliminating time wasters, results, values and developing people.

I believe it is time to wage war on bureaucracy. In a bureaucracy, there’s no thought of developing people, rewarding results, engagement or authenticity, only acting and pretense.

There is a better – authenticity is good for business, and for the soul.