When Keeping It Real at Work Goes Wrong

Authenticity is quickly emerging as a top desired quality of conscious leaders in 2020 and beyond. In particular, a leader who can be vulnerable, honest about flaws, accountable for mistakes, and commit to positive change with believable conviction is highly prone to inspiring today’s and tomorrow’s workforce to follow him or her.

Any strength, however, can also be a liability if it’s not balanced by consciousness. An unconscious leader is not self-aware enough to distinguish truth (data, facts) from story (opinion, perception, bias.)

When decisions are made from this place, the ego fights to maintain control, and will staunchly produce confirmation bias. Science has proven that we are all prone to confirmation bias. Self-awareness is like a muscle that can be developed and strengthened over time with practice. Just like any other skill, we can form better habits around self-awareness. It can become something we do automatically as we become unconsciously competent.

Over 15 years ago, Dave Chappell demonstrated the drawbacks to “keeping it real,” and how people sometimes justify outrage, verbal assaults, or even physical assault. In the end, they lose.

Nowadays, with social media even more commonplace, “keyboard warriors” and “trolls” have emerged. We also have the term “snowflakes” to describe those who express an emotional response, take things personally, or voice an opposing opinion with passion.

We have more venues for communication than ever before, and different preferences around communication. Consequently, there’s more than one way people want to be shown respect.

It’s confusing to have so many people trying to influence if, when, and/or how it’s acceptable to express emotions. On top of that, people have an opinion about whether your emotional response is right or wrong. Civil discourse has disintegrated into name-calling and divisiveness that appears to be beyond bridging.

A new generation is entering the workforce with the highest rates of mental illness of any generation. Is this what is causing this?

Way back in Interpersonal Communications, a course I had as a communications major, we learned a very simple method to have effective conversations with people. It started with active listening – listening for comprehension, not reply.

And then, to ensure comprehension, because so much can be subjectively translated based on one’s personal experiences and perceptions, to repeat back to the person your understanding/translation of what they just said. Then asking for clarification, reflecting, and thoughtfully responding.

It seemed then like just a helpful guide for having clear communications, which is VERY easy to NOT do and results in unnecessary stress, conflict, divisiveness, and unharmonious collaboration that stifles progress and wellness.

After years of studying other disciplines that also impact communication, such as neuroscience, the reflection part of this is where there is a development gap, and thankfully mindfulness is coming along to fill that gap.

It’s a busier world now. Unless leaders are consciously making time for conscious reflection. They are prone to making decisions from bias, perception, and opinion. There’s also a need to make sure that future leaders are supported in developing these habits by being able to take regular brain fatigue breaks throughout the day and work reasonable hours. Time off is also important so that people have the ability to travel, to see things from a different perspective, and to turn off the problems and stress of work for periods of time.

Another communication gap is words, or at least, it would seem that it’s words that directly cause a response. Actually, it’s the mindset from which the words originate.

I read a short, but highly impactful book many years ago called Change Your Words; Change Your World by Andrea Gardner. It advised bathing words in your mouth with love before they leave your lips.

Your ego is always trying to convince you that you’re right and others are wrong. Your higher self will favor understanding over judgment.

No one likes feeling judged or being judged. Any hint of judgment in your words can backfire in harmful ways, the least of which is resistance – the opposite outcome you desire.

Make sure you are not insinuating someone is wrong when that is really just your opinion.

Ask yourself if your words are kind, honest, and necessary.

If so, consult with your highest self. “Taste” the words you intend to use. Do they drip with love?

Your ego is real but does not always see the truth. Your highest self is real and sees profound truth. If you’re going to keep it real at work, stay in alignment with your highest self, not your ego. The more you do this, the more automatic it will become. The more automatic it becomes, the more influential and authentic you will grow as a leader.

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Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a 13-year-old leadership and career development firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where some of her students won the 2018 national competition, were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, and won the 2019 People’s Choice Award. 

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