In the spirit of inclusion and cultural awareness, kudos to the companies who believe in fostering an environment that supports uniqueness and differences. The assumption is that employee resource groups and/or affinity groups are a foundation upon which to build exposure to and education about different cultures and beliefs in the workplace. “This leads to what I want to discuss – authenticity.
Authenticity concerns the truthfulness of origins, attributes, commitments, sincerity, devotion and intentions, according to Webster’s dictionary.
When companies begin their diversity journey, the first order of the day is to form affinity or employee resource groups for the purpose of exposing employees to other cultures so that respect of others’ heritage becomes the norm. But somehow this respect gets lost when people take authenticity to the next level and really bring their true selves to work, including dress, hair color, clothing, dance, language, etc. Suddenly a lack of acceptance can show up and all that authenticity everyone was trying so hard to encourage is gone.
I once asked a senior leader of a major company: How does one bring their true self to work when so many judge the book by its cover? How do I get past pretending to be someone else just so I can fit in? Well, this leader graciously shared his true feelings: “You know, that is really a good question. It appears to be more accepting for senior leaders to bring their real selves to work because of their influence and position in the organization.”
This, I hope, is not true for everyone but it is a reality for many. I believe that, at the end of the day, one should never compromise who they are.
So how do you navigate organizational cultures that are slow to change or have not changed at all? How do you start cultivating cultures that embrace differences? Below are a few suggestions to think about if you find yourself pursuing those goals:
• Identify the roles and identities that you use to navigate the workplace
• Clarify the belief and values that are at your core identity
• Realize that it is important to be more aware and aligned with the different aspects of yourself, so understand what that is for you
• Know what makes you comfortable in and out of the workplace
• Share your concerns with others in the workplace to learn what works best
When you are clear about who you are in and out of work….then BRING IT.