In this four-part blog series, thought leaders Rita Bailey, Elaine Biech, and Tonya Wilson offer advice for how to drive DE&I initiatives forward within your organization. You can find the first three blog posts on ATD’s DE&I resources page here.
People have different perspectives about the definition of authenticity. Often, authenticity is related to belonging. An organization can be inclusive, but people may still feel like they don’t belong because they can’t authentically be who they are. For example, a single mom may feel like the men on her team can’t relate to the fact that she is giving 100 percent at work then goes home and gives 100 percent to her family. She may feel like she can’t come into work and talk about her sick child or leave to take care of that child without it being viewed negatively. She feels like she can’t be her authentic self at work.
At its core, authenticity is about the ability to come to work and be comfortable expressing who you are without having to put on a corporate face and use corporate language just to survive.
There are extremists in every category who will take things to the limit. Some people may go too far when it comes to bringing their political views or outside activities into the workplace. When that happens, it’s important to refer back to company policy and what is tolerated and acceptable within an organization. Having cultural norms and a specific definition around what is and is not acceptable behavior is necessary.
Authenticity is acceptable as long as it doesn’t infringe on others’ authenticity. People shouldn’t use their authenticity as a means of being rude, uncivil, or abusive in any way. Everyone needs to bring their best to the table, so we don’t want someone’s expression of authenticity to create a psychologically unsafe environment. We can’t allow people to infringe on those boundaries and create unsafe environments. That would be unproductive and could even cause legal consequences and other liabilities for an organization. We should honor each other’s boundaries and understand that being prohibited from doing something that creates fear for someone else is not a violation of your authenticity.