Should you be yourself at work? In the political financial services sector, the concept of authenticity might be viewed as both a the latest HR fad and a genuinely unwise course of action. However, with millennials increasingly seeking personal fulfillment at work, and employers searching for ways turn this into productivity, openness at work is more important.
Authenticity has its benefits in the workplace
Google’s own internal research has confirmed that teams that connect on a deeper, more emotional and more authentic level than water-cooler talk perform at phenomenally higher rates. In fact, the research revealed that teams that feel psychologically safe around each other – safe to take risks, admit mistakes, ask questions and be open – are not only more productive, but also more creative and less likely to leave the company.
An authentic workplace is a space where you can be your true self; where you don’t leave your passions at the door; and where it’s safe to be vulnerable. It’s a supportive environment where empathy is prized – after all, life doesn’t stop when we enter the office, and we need to recognize that at work.
Our company set out to help employees at IEX, the Wall Street stock the Wall Street stock exchange started by ex-RBC Capital Markets managing director Brad Katsuyama and made famous by the Michael Lewis book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, work more authentically.
The team-building exercise mean participating in a hands-on, workplace experience in which employees discover the values that they care about most and least. By sorting and ranking more than 70 values like confidence, possessions, health, home and loyalty, employees start to learn what matters to them most. This is the first step towards understanding yourself, which in turn leads to more empathetic connections with others.
Family was the most important shared value among IEX’s staff. As a result, they instituted an extra paid day off, devoted to spending time with family and loved ones. The only requirement: sharing a photo of your “Family Day” on the IEX digital board. Everyone in the company votes on the shared pictures, and the employee with the best one wins – you guessed it – another Family Day.
It might not seem like a big deal to spend a little more time with your family. But in a corporate world like financial services where the priorities of the employer always comes first, being given a chance to say what's really important to employees helps improve emotional well-being, which in turn improves productivity.
After all, people become disconnected when they feel forced to put up walls and put on masks. They might show up, but are they in fact engaged and connected and performing at the top of their game? If they’re not, there’s a cost, and we all know it.
Kate Bednarski is the chief experience officer of Live in the Grey, an organization that uses experiential learning and development to help professionals perform better.
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