The Authenticity Fallacy

The Authenticity Fallacy

A few years ago, organisations started weaving the concept of authenticity into their equality, diversity and inclusion approaches and everyone was encouraged to bring their whole selves to work.

Sadly it was a con.  Not necessarily deliberate, but nonetheless misleading. When organisations tell you to bring your whole self to work what they are really saying is bring the part of you to work that aligns with the organisation’s vision and values. Three examples of where authenticity at work is a misnomer are:

  • Bigotry – most modern organisations will not encourage or allow bigotry and discriminatory behaviour to be displayed at work even if it is an essential facet of one’s authentic self
  • Illegal activity – even if someone has murderous or pilfering tendencies as a natural part of their being organisations will not encourage this type of authenticity to be brought to the workplace.
  • Behaviour contrary to organisational policy or standards of behaviour – most organisations provide employees with a clear framework for behaviour and the accompanying policies and processes for them to follow. Any behaviour that is contrary to these principles, no matter how authentic, will not be tolerated.

Therefore, it is crucially important for you to do a values alignment exercise every now and again to assess whether your personal values are still in line with your organisational values.

Values help us to define the line that we aren’t willing to cross for personal gain and/or professional advancement. Everyone’s line is different because it is based on their values, life experiences and personal circumstances.

Crucially if organisations want to increase retention and embed inclusion, they should encourage their people to explore their values, define their lines and to be tolerant of other people’s lines. True inclusion can be achieved when we understand and accept people for who they are.

Leaders who want to demonstrate inclusive leadership strength need to facilitate open discussions about organisational values and expectations (stated and implied) and enable their teams to map these against their personal values.

A simple values alignment exercise involves five basic steps.

  1. Identify your values
  2. Identify the explicit and implicit organisational values
  3. Assess the similarities and differences between the two sets of values. This is your values gap.
  4. Consider whether your values gap makes you uncomfortable. This will likely be an almost instinctive process and should not require lots of contemplation.
  5. Think about what can be done to close your value gap and take proactive steps to close it.


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