Most organizations want to hire employees to perform a set of tasks or to fill a vacant ‘box’. So they advertise the available job, offer a competitive compensation package, and a queue forms. The queue is made up of people who need money to pay for their living expenses, such as food and rent. In a model like this, the job is just a means to an end which is the truth for most people which lead to the phrase rat race.
When a new employee is hired under this typical scenario and shows up the first day, the superior usually tells her what work needs to be done and shows her how to act. This approach to employment allows leaders or superiors to predict and control what will come out of the job (at least in the short term). But this approach doesn’t produce the most productive, innovative work environment which is required for the organization advancement and creative problem solving.
A decade long study showed that most organizations’ entry, or “onboarding,” processes share a common goal that is to inculcate the organizational culture and teach new employees the job requirements. But we also identified a very different approach that encourages employees to be authentic and express themselves on the job. It isn’t more expensive than traditional approaches, but it does require leaders to adopt a new mindset.
One of innate human desire is our longing for opportunities to be valued as our authentic selves (our real self). Being valued for who we truly are makes us feel alive. We’ve found that when people gain insight into their unique perspectives and strengths and can use them at work, their work engagement increases and their work is no longer just a means to the end. Most organizations do not tap this power source and, as a result, do not get the best out of their employees.
Ray Dalio, in his book, The Principles, suggest that in order for an organization to perform extraordinarily well, its employee need to be happy and highly competent. And in order for an employee to be happy, the employee must be able to express herself authentically (brutal honesty & transparency) and the job scope or task must match with her talent and interest, her personality shall complement others in her team and she shall be able to adapt to the organizational culture. If not, separation is the best way forward for both the employee and the organization in the long run.
Authentic self-expression isn’t just important because it makes us feel better but it is also essential for them to perform better. This is because when employees enter into relationships with others who recognize and verify their authentic self-views, they are more likely to share information and collaborate with colleagues, resulting in greater productivity. And when employees feel they can bring both their heads and their hearts to work, innovation and creativity thrive, and customers notice that employees authentically care about them.
Our authenticity perspective encourages newcomers to not only maintain their unique values, perspectives, and strengths but also to use their strengths to solve organizational problems. By making authenticity a core value from the start of employment, organizations may not only inspire greater commitment and effort but also strategically allow for the type of “positive deviance” that keeps them fresh and agile while giving more meaning to their work domain, not just a means to an end.