Feeling Like Yourself at Work is Good for Business—But Takes Time

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Who we are at work and who we are at home can sometimes feel like two different people. Balancing professionalism with your true, uninhibited personality, however, is important; leaning more toward either side can have negative consequences on your life or your career. Expanding on a previous study on the correlation between feeling authentic in the workplace and feeling satisfied with one's job, a recent study found that most workers feel like themselves at work, but getting to that point is a process that can take several months.

Outlined in the Harvard Business Review, the study, conducted by Plasticity Labs and Wilfrid Laurier University social psychologist Dr. Anne Wilson, involved surveying 213 employees about their work characteristics (such as dress code), workplace sentiment (is there a sense of community? Are people satisfied at work?), and sense of workplace authenticity. "Overall, 72 percent of people said they are authentic at work, taking an average of two to three months to show their true selves," Vanessa Buote of Plasticity Labs wrote in the HBR. "Of this group, 60 percent were authentic by the three-month mark, and 22 percent by nine months. For 9 percent of respondents it took between 10 to 12 months for them to feel comfortable being authentic."

Based on questions included in the survey, Plasticity Labs found that certain work conditions contributed to whether or not workers felt like themselves. For example, those who were not subject to in-office dress codes reported feeling more authentic. Eighty percent of those who claimed to feel like themselves at work expressed their belief that authenticity leads to stronger relationships, more job satisfaction, and less stress, all of which should be considered positive side effects.

The researchers say that among the 10 percent surveyed who did not report feeling genuine, some considered this a good thing. "Although 30 percent felt that authenticity would make their workplace better, almost two-thirds (64 percent) felt that being their true selves would make the workplace environment worse," Buote wrote, referencing feedback from employees whose work environments leaned more toward conformity and away from individuality.

In theory, by encouraging employees and fellow coworkers to be themselves, companies can cultivate more positive work environments while also increasing productivity and confidence; it really is a win-win situation. And if you're one month into a new job and still feeling uncomfortable, take heart—authenticity may be just around the corner.