The leaders who take the time to consider how to create an office environment and organizational culture where everyone feels welcome and safe will be cultivating the most effective workforces at the same time.
Not everyone wants to return to working in a specific office, or even if they are already back in the office, they are feeling very raw and uncomfortable in that space. In the Dare to Lead podcast episode “The Great Awkward” that I shared last week, Brené Brown and her sister and chief of staff, Barrett Guillen, discuss feeling raw and the fact that everyone is not okay right now.
It’s important to remember that many people never felt comfortable in the office in the “before times” either. The daily effort to get ready a certain way, get there, and present a version of yourself that is “acceptable” can be exhausting when it mismatches with your authentic self. And that’s before experiencing microaggressions on top of everything else.
“Authenticity is defined as when your external expression is aligned with your internal experience. People actually feel better about themselves when they are authentic. There are all kinds of implications for your wellbeing, work engagement, productivity.”Dr. Tina Opie, expert in strategic management and organizational behavior
Every task, meeting, conversation, lunch, email, office space, and project idea has to be tempered with the right amount of who you’re supposed to be, how you’re supposed to appear, act, and sound, what you’re supposed to say and eat, and when you’re supposed to speak or have an idea.
Over lunch this week, treat yourself to the podcast episode, “What’s Changed About How We Show Up at Work?” In under 28 minutes, Dr. Tina Opie and the hosts of the “Women at Work” podcast have an honest conversation about authenticity at work and why many people are not wanting to return to an office. Here are a few more quotes from the episode to whet your appetite:
“I would say for me personally, going back into the workplace, I am a little bit worried about being authentic because I feel like I’m in a more raw place than before. So right now, when everybody wants authenticity, I am shying away from it because if I were to have that external expression be equivalent to my internal expression, it would be a damn mess.”Emily Caulfield, Women at Work podcast co-host
“There are multiple domains in all of our lives and I have learned work is not therapy….I view work as a place where I want to be able to be emotionally authentic, but that’s not the place to work out my emotions…”Dr. Tina Opie
“This is a great opportunity for organizations. Organizations that will end up with competitive advantages will be those organizations who say, OK, authenticity is important to employees. We’ve talked about why wellbeing, productivity, work engagement. So let’s start looking at how our organization supports authentic expression in the workplace.”Dr. Tina Opie
As a leader, slow down enough to be intentional and considerate of what your employees are experiencing. With a
little bit of creativity and forethought a lot of compassion and diligent effort, employers can make changes that allow all employees the freedom to be comfortable, to feel included, and to improve their performance. They can also do more to facilitate an inclusive office return for multiple groups of individuals as described in this LeadDev article, “Making the Return to Office More Inclusive for Your Team” by Humayra Hanif.