In this chaotic world of artificial intelligence, social media, highlight reels, and reality television, authenticity has never been a more powerful concept. Authenticity means being genuine and holding true to yourself and your values—and we think these qualities are essential in today’s workplace.
Admittedly, being authentic at work is often easier said than done, as maintaining a professional face is such a strong habit for most people. By the time you’ve had a couple of jobs, you’re likely an expert at putting on some kind of mask or a façade at work. This could be as simple as smoothing yourself out when you’re around your colleagues—for example, not bringing your wicked sense of humour or never sharing about your life outside your job. Or it could be a major transformation, through which you almost become an almost entirely different person at work. At Cliniko, we tend to refer to this as a “business persona” (a version of yourself that you perform in work contexts).
While some companies actively encourage business personas, that’s not how we work at Cliniko. In fact, we avoid them at all costs. We want our team to be truly themselves at work—for each person to come with all their quirks and let their personality shine through. Bring on the weird! We also want team members to be open about how they’re feeling on any given day, rather than feeling compelled to put on a happy face. Our aim is to create a workplace where our team members feel able to show up without any pretences or masks in place.
But there are several reasons for this. It’s not because we’re hippies. Or even just because we want our staff to enjoy working at Cliniko (although we do). It actually makes good business sense to foster a culture of authenticity in the workplace—and here’s why.
There are many positive outcomes when a business embraces authenticity:
- There’s more personal accountability
When there’s no separation between how someone shows up at work and who they truly are, they’re more likely to feel accountable for what happens in their job. Authenticity allows a person to stay connected to their own humanity and therefore make more ethical choices. This means that if you’re a kind and generous person in your everyday life, for example, you’ll bring these qualities to how you behave in business settings too.
When you’re wearing a business persona like a mask, on the other hand, it’s easy to feel detached from how you behave because “it isn’t really you”. Our founder Joel penned an article about the tendency to harden ourselves in our professional lives and why the expression “it’s just business” is so problematic. We’ve always tried to conduct our business in accordance with our values and ethics at Cliniko, and we’ve certainly found that it’s very much a myth that you must be ruthless and hard nosed to succeed.
- Team members can connect with each other more genuinely
Authenticity fosters collaboration. It’s easier for colleagues to relate to one another in a meaningful way when everyone can be themselves. A team that’s able to connect sincerely—in which nobody is putting up a mask—is more likely to lean on each other for support, communicate more openly, and work together more organically. Without the capacity for this kind of connection, the whole team is diminished.
At Cliniko, this is one of the reasons that we have meetups. These company gatherings allow our remote team to spend time together in person—and they do wonders for our workplace authenticity. By the time you’ve spent a week with each other’s families and you’re doing a group singalong to Hamilton or boogieing to “Love Shack”, any lingering business personas have been well and truly dropped! And true friendships have been created instead. Although we’re spread out all over the world, Cliniko team members will go out of their way to visit one another when they’re travelling and those in the same cities will socialise outside of work too. Our workplace is better for this authenticity. You just need to look at the months following a meetup, when productivity and team connectedness are higher than ever, to know that our team genuinely bonding is a good thing for the business too.
- The workplace becomes more diverse
People’s actual personalities are usually far more diverse than their business personas (which tend to be fairly run of the mill). Allowing team members to be themselves in the workplace is a more inclusive way of running a business and, quite frankly, it’s also more interesting! If everyone is personifying the exact same qualities to be considered “professional”, then the workplace is going to become homogenous very quickly.
Our culture of authenticity at Cliniko is especially visible in how our support team engages with our customers. If someone reaches out to support, each person they interact with will sound very different—with unique personalities and communication styles. The upshot of this is that our customers always know they’re talking to a real person, and our team can focus on providing support and being their empathic selves, rather than putting on a business persona.
- It’s easier to resist false impressions
Business personas can serve as a distraction; they encourage you to concentrate on information that’s not actually relevant to how well someone performs their job. It’s easy to get caught up in the image that someone projects of themselves and evaluate them accordingly: what clothes do they wear? How do they present themselves? How formally do they speak? But focusing on these characteristics can easily lead you astray—they don’t reveal much about someone’s personality or their competency.
This is foremost in our mind at Cliniko when we’re hiring. Experience has taught us that the best person for the job is not necessarily the person who uses all the buzzwords and puts on a good professional face. You can read more about our hiring process here, but there are a number of steps we take to get to know our applicants more authentically. For example, while we do set tasks to assess competency, we ask applicants not to send resumes (we don’t want someone’s curated version of themselves) and our “interviews” tend to be more like an informal chat. Otherwise, we’d basically just be testing how good someone is at the job application process.
- It’s better for the mental health of your team
A work culture that embraces authenticity leaves space for the ups and downs of life. If a team member is having a tough time, they can express this—they don’t need to try and hide it behind a professional face. This also means that nobody has to go through the exhaustion of pretending to be someone else (or a different version of themselves) all day. After all, if your energy is being partially channelled into keeping up a persona while you’re at work, how much energy is even left over to do your job?
At Cliniko, authenticity also means giving our team members the freedom to bring their unique talents into the workplace. Rachel’s story is one the best examples of how embracing authenticity can benefit everyone! Rachel was hired as a member of our support team but found a way to use her love of performing to create videos that help our customers in a completely new way. Your team thrives when they love what they do, but it also positively impacts your business as well.
The process takes time
Remember that creating a work culture of authenticity will take time. New team members at Cliniko always need to un-learn old habits and get comfortable being themselves at work.
I was hired a year and a half ago and, speaking for myself, authenticity at work is still something that I struggle with. It’s weirdly hard to get out of the mindset that makes you afraid to be too uninhibited just in case you come across as goofy, odd, or inappropriate! I’ll still have moments where I get a rush of nerves about posting something on Slack that’s non-work-related, or I’ll hesitate to join in when my colleagues good-naturedly tease each other. But these old reactions do start to disappear when you realise that people really do want you to be yourself. In fact, chances are, they’re just as quirky as you! And the benefit of being myself at work means that I can do my job so much better (and even let my own voice come through when I’m writing an article like this one).
Having an authentic work culture is so worth it—for the wellbeing of your team and for your business overall. Try it and see what happens for you.