Should You Really Be Yourself at Work?

We all adjust our personality and behaviors to accommodate our environment, or the task at hand. Sometimes, it can seem like it might be a good move to put on a professional face that is very different from our own, to earn promotions, or please our bosses or even our co-workers. However, pretending to be someone that you’re not at work, day after day, could backfire. There are a lot of reasons why it might be better to just be yourself. Here are a few things to consider.

1. Pretending is exhausting.

It takes energy to pretend to be anything other than what you really are. Of course, we have to try to have a positive attitude, but pretending that you’re happy when you’re not, for example, can drain the life right out of you. The same is true for affecting a professional persona throughout your workday. Maybe that energy would be better directed toward other things, such as the work itself? If you’re seen as someone who does an excellent job, then your boss, co-workers, and clients will see you as a professional. Consider letting your work speak for itself.

2. People love authenticity.

The thing about not being yourself is that people can usually tell. If your persona feels contrived, it could really backfire. One of the keys to career success is to build trust, and people trust those that they deem authentic. When you are yourself, it makes other people feel safe to do the same, and a more relaxed and genuine interaction ensues. You make people feel comfortable when you’re comfortable, and it’s hard to do that when you’re trying too hard and backing away from who you really are.

3. It makes networking more difficult.

Folks who hide their true selves from co-workers often have a more difficult time forging bonds with them. These connections offer potentially huge professional benefits (not to mention that it’s just really nice to have friends at work) and being yourself is a prerequisite for getting there in most cases.

4. It will impact how much you like your job.

If you’re exhausted, not building trust, and not developing authentic relationships with anyone, the chances are you’re going to be pretty miserable at work and that could lead you to moving on faster than you would otherwise. A recent study found that 50 percent of people said that hiding who they really were impacted their commitment to the organization. Ideally, you want to work somewhere that feels like a good fit, and that’s not the case if you’re not being yourself. In order to really try a company’s culture on for size, you have to participate in it earnestly.

Work for an organization long enough, and your true self will come out. You’ll likely be better off both personally and professionally when it does. It’s important to be professional, but trying too hard to be what you think others want you to be can’t last long, and it likely won’t make you happier. So, just be yourself – but be your best self. Let your work speak for itself, and build genuine connections with people you come into contact with. It’ll make life so much easier.

Gina Belli, PayScale

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