An article about authenticity vs professionalism
Nowadays, the internet is flooded with articles about authenticity, and its value at the workplace.
There are over 500 million results for ‘being authentic at work’ in Google. And here I am questioning it because I don’t think it’s a viable option for most professions.
Let me explain it through an example.
Let’s say your car broke down. You need a mechanic, immediately. You managed to get your car to a mechanic. A mechanic who just got dumped by their partner...and the mechanic tells you that they don’t feel like fixing your car because they are in a bad mood. This is authenticity. While you, as a customer, don’t want authenticity, you want your car to be fixed right now. You don’t care about the mechanic’s bad day...you want the mechanic to be professional, not authentic. Let it sink in, and think about it. Really think about it.
Think about your own experience at your workplace. Have you ever tried to be truly authentic at work? How was it perceived? What if you would have been authentic when there was a conflict at work? What if you truly showed your feelings? What if you didn’t have a filter and said whatever came to your mind during a (perhaps) heated conversation? So, were you authentic? If not, why were you not? If you were (kudos to you, by the way) was there any reprimand?
As designers (or as a matter of fact, it's applicable to any job) we need to be professional, not authentic. Nobody wants our whole self at work. I repeat. Nobody wants your whole self at work. You can read company values, and some managers might tell you that they want you to be 100% you all the time. But that’s untrue.
What they want is the promise of you doing a great job regardless of what happens to you outside of your day job. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying managers & companies are not empathetic if you have a hard time in life. However, as much as they are sympathetic to your problem, they still want you to deliver on your promises because that’s one of the reasons you were hired.
Is authenticity overrated? Yes, I think so.
Don’t chase authenticity. Instead just be at the service of others.
Be useful. Always stay professional while keeping your unique voice.