Personal Finance

Be your true self at work

Do not try too hard to conform to the status quo or peer pressure. file photo | nmg
Do not try too hard to conform to the status quo or peer pressure. file photo | nmg 

What if we can be our true self both at home and at work? What would the value of that be to yourself and your organisation?

In one study Dan Cable, of London Business School, and Virginia Kay, of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, surveyed 154 recent MBA graduates who were four months into their jobs.

Those who felt they could express their authentic selves at work were, on average, 16 per cent more engaged and more committed to their organisations than those who felt they had to hide their authentic selves.

Throughout our schooling and our careers we are taught to conform to the status quo. Francesca Gino, Professor at Harvard Business School and Author, conducted a study of more than 2,000 employees across different industries.

She found that nearly half of the respondents reported working in organisations where they regularly felt the need to conform and more than half said that people in their organisation do not question and challenge the status quo.


There is of course a level of conformity that is necessary in all organisations, however it is about striking the balance between having some formal and informal rules that provide necessary structure.

We all fall prey to social pressure. Conforming helps us feel like we fit in and makes us feel accepted. Classic research conducted in the 1950s by the psychologist Solomon Asch showed, conformity to peer pressure is so powerful that it occurs even when we know it will lead us to make bad decisions.

A great example of this is history is the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, where after the event President John F.Kennedy called it a colossal mistake. In a nutshell Kennedy’s top advisors were unwilling to challenge bad ideas because it might disturb perceived or desired group concurrence.

David A.McKnight, author of ‘The Zen of Executive Presence’, argues that the best way to maintain and project an effective executive image is to bring at least part of yourself to the table.

In his book, he offers some powerful reasons why you should be your true self at work. Here are some of them:

People won’t follow you if they don’t know who you are.

It is hard to connect to someone who is not being themselves and you cannot build trust when you do not really know someone. Trust is such a fundamental part of relationships.

A fake you will make clients and contacts uncomfortable.

It’s really important that the way you feel inside, your values and beliefs, who you are internally match the external. If the two are incongruent, people can spot that there is something unauthentic about you.

An honest workplace is a more effective workplace.

Not being truly honest and open in the workplace can lead to bad relationships or leave people feeling like they have to put on a façade, which can be exhausting. Being open will help those around feel comfortable enough to do the same.

You will connect better with customers.

Clients who feel they can identify with you are more likely to do business with you. People do business with those who they like and trust. Being more of yourself will allow a deeper connection with your clients.

You will be happier and more successful.

A lot of research shows that the happier you are at work, the more productive you are.

Many companies are seeing happiness as a way to boost productivity.

In fact firms are spending money on happiness coaches, team-building exercises, gameplays, funsultants and Chief Happiness Officers (yes, you will find one of those at Google!).