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Mary Craig


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The impact of the ‘authentic self’ on wellbeing within workplace


Dr Gail Gross, an internationally acclaimed expert in human development and behaviour, recently wrote for Huffington Post that “once you begin to work towards your authentic self, you can begin to live as only you can live, and the person you are meant to be”.

Yet the process of uncovering your authentic self is rarely a simple one, and the challenge becomes increasingly difficult when you factor in the impact of the wider world.

If you look at the traditional workplace environment, there is often a deep-rooted sense of the collective. A widely-felt ideology that everyone is pulling together for the greater good and that no matter what, the job needs to come first.

As a result, many organisations traditionally reward what we refer to as ‘game-play’, by supporting and enhancing those who work well within the system and – subconsciously or otherwise – side-lining those who don’t fit with the version of the team it’s trying to build.

A damaging compromise?

Whilst this in itself is, arguably, human nature, adjusting certain elements of yourself to ensure acceptance by the wider group may prove beneficial from an evolutionary standpoint, this compromise can be as damaging as it can be supportive.

As humans, our careers and the roles we choose to fill within society are intrinsically tied into our sense of self-worth and psychological development, that goals we often see as ‘career objectives’ can actually stretch far beyond that. The desire to learn a new skill or reach a certain level, while career-based in principle, can often have far wider reaching roots.

So for those who fall out of this supportive system, be it from the start or as time goes on, it can be extremely damaging as their personal wellbeing and place within the team begin to work against each other.

This dissonance in itself can often lead to team members becoming withdrawn and unproductive at work, potentially resulting in them seeking newer opportunities elsewhere or simply just distancing themselves from the team.

Leadership, and true leadership at that, is about being conscious about what serves the organisation and its people in the best way possible.

So how can organisations ensure the wellbeing of the team as a whole, to create a happy and healthy workplace environment?

The answer, sadly, is not a simple one.

In order to build a resilient and effective team within an organisation, it is key that each member understands themselves and their impact/place within that team, as well as the environment in which they work.

We’ve all worked with that one person, be they junior or senior, who’s constant inner battle with themselves has created a negativity which sucks the energy out of a team like the oxygen leaving a room. It leaves the team flat, uninspired and at odds with themselves as well as the group.

This is where leadership plays a fundamental role.

Leadership, and true leadership at that, is about being conscious about what serves the organisation and its people in the best way possible, and is something which is often overlooked when developing managers internally.

Often, the role of manager and leader are blurred into one, with little emphasis being places on the subtle differences between driving a team to meet the needs of a business and inspiring them to do so. And this is where organisations who place team building and development, across all levels, at its heart really stand out from the crowd.

The importance of trust

People change. We constantly develop and evolve, and even the imagined stability of our authentic self will inevitably change over time.

The key for any leader looking to truly understand the needs of their team, be they professional or personal, is to keep seeking timely and honest feedback from all levels – with the understanding that it will be received without judgement or vindication – and always be asking “Are my people, and my team, happy?”.

What organisations need to be doing is to ensure that both leaders and teams have time built into their working days and weeks to bond.

Whether it be within the organisation or outside of it in a neutral yet focused environment, having space to develop strong relationships on an individual level is key to foster the level of trust needed to enable this open and honest dialogue.

Only then, will each member of the team are able to feel fully confident to be either authentic self and know that they will still have a valued – and more importantly respected – please within the team. And only then will an organisation truly be able to say it puts its people and their wellbeing first.

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Mary Craig


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