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Is Authenticity Bad?

I've written about the value of authenticity in the workplace. Not directly from a diversity and inclusion standpoint, but I am in favor of authenticity at work. I believe that it creates a platform for multiple ideas and a culture where everyone can do their best work.

I recently saw a TED Talk that challenged my belief. I've been thinking about it for a few days now and I still haven't figured out what to do or how it has changed my stance.

Watch the entire thing. What struck me was that there were times when I clearly recognized the behavior she talked about, and other times I found myself recoiling and becoming defensive. There are things she said with which I totally agreed. There were other things that I found myself thinking "that isn't right".

Despite all that, here are my takeaways - and I consider these crucial from a management point of view.

  • Be honest (with yourself and others) about how much authenticity you really want. Saying something you think is the "right" thing, but your actions won't support isn't fair to the person you hired. This is going to require some brutal honesty with yourself.

  • If someone pushes back, really listen and "sit in" the discomfort. Try and realize where it comes from and why you feel that way. Don't respond until you've really marinated in the feeling.

  • Ask questions, be honest, and really listen. If you are like me, you are entering a strange world that you don't understand. There are others who've had to live in it from a different perspective. Ask for their help in understanding and be honest with what you can and cannot do at the moment.

We owe it to those who have been disadvantaged to move as quickly as possible. However, only in a sincere manner and with the understanding we can't change ourselves or others or systems overnight. We just need to start now.

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