Being your most authentic self in the workplace

Blog Thought leadership
Christine Aasma, Project Assistant, shares her thoughts on why being all that you are’ is particularly important for young people in the workplace, highlighting how it can make you happier and a better performer, benefitting both mental well-being and work productivity. 

As a younger person first stepping into the corporate workforce, it can be difficult to navigate how to speak and approach your work colleagues, managers and clients. There are almost these unspoken rules on how you should communicate and present yourself.

From formal dress codes to having the correct email etiquette, these rules are expected to be upheld and are daunting to get wrong. As young adults we’re advised to not work too hard and know our boundaries but also to go above and beyond and put in the extra hours to show that we are team players –quite a bunch of mixed messages.

According to an article (1), the average UK employee will spend roughly 3,515 days working in their lifetime, which is a considerable amount of time spent with work colleagues. So, you would think that these colleagues would be great company, wanting to get to know you, so that sharing your personality and some personal life details with them is much easier. However, young adults and their more mature peers will mostly likely struggle to understand each other. Typical phrases such as youth these days’ are still used in regards to the younger generation. But as times changes, generations change too, especially with the way they present themselves and interact with the world.

Generation‑Z and Millennials are characterised and often perceived as lazy, weak, entitled, naïve, self-centered. 

But why? Sadly, being aware that we are judged by others in our everyday lives, even by accident, is the norm. These two younger generations in particular are scrutinised over clothing and lifestyle choices. Whether it is wearing trainers or joggers to the office, sharing details about your party weekend, your mental health or home life, colleagues and people in your workplace can make assumptions which may limit your career progression. Reasons for this may be traditional workplace hierarchy, a negative leaning towards young people, envy or a deep-rooted belief that young people are not capable of doing the work. 

There is a fine line between what is perceived as appropriate to speak about and what you shouldn’t speak about, but really that’s down to the individual and what they are comfortable with. Further research states “…Work-related stress can also have a negative impact on your mental health. People affected by work-related stress lose an average of 24 days of work due to ill health.” (2). Would being more open and more authentic in the workplace help this statistic get lower? There will always be a level off stress with any job, but with the right support maybe time off due to stress-related ill health would be reduced.

For an individual to be a good employee, there should be a member of their team or within the company that they can be honest with, that will be understanding of their lives. Everyone deserves to be themselves and have a space or person they can speak openly with, considering that so much time is spent with colleagues. Even if the final decision is not to discuss anything, there should be options.

Senior leadership teams could be doing more to ensure that all voices are heard within their organisations, enabling more honest discussions to be taking place. Small steps such as initiating regular catchups, holding a weekly team meeting where everyone is encouraged to participate and being willing to take on feedback, both positive and negative, will all have an impact.

I’m happy that at Broadsword I’ve been given the chance to be myself, to be heard and guided if I had any questions.

A lot has changed, even within the last decade, of what is considered corporate. Younger people are more unapologetically themselves with individuals sharing more about their mental health and finding their boundaries.Personally, I feel that as we only have one life on this earth, it shouldn’t be hidden away and we should be able to be our true selves at work.

Would you be open about your life with your colleagues or boss?