I came across this journal while researching literature on authenticity. Ralph van den Bosch and Toon W. Taris, organizational researchers in The Netherlands, published their research on developing a valid, reliable and short measure of workplace authenticity, the Individual Authenticity Measure (IAM). Their literature review and their own research were well worth my time and effort. Here are some of their observations and findings:
- What is authenticity? The ability to act “in agreement with one’s true self.” (2)
- The great psychologist Carl Rogers argued authenticity was a precondition for a person to be able to eventually be fully functioning, fulfilling one’s potential. Authenticity flows from one’s perceptions about experience, not others' perceptions.
- Being authentic is important to functioning in a healthy manner
- Authenticity is related positively to autonomy, personal growth, relations with others, purpose in life. (3-4)
- Leader authenticity has been found to be positively related to team performance.
- Authenticity is related negatively to anxiety, depression, and stress.
- People feel authentic in the workplace when what they are doing is consistent with how they see themselves.
- Authenticity can vary with different roles. One may be authentic at work and not elsewhere or vice versa. Some may always be authentic. Others, never.
- Knowing or not knowing who you are. Some people are self-alienated, “out of touch” with who they are, their core. Being aware of your moods, your physiological state.
- Living in accordance with your beliefs and values. Doing so is authentic living, being true to self in most situations.
- Being who you are, the degree to which one is influenced by the social environment. The more one is, the higher the probability of self-alienation.
1. I applaud Bosch and Taris for (1) shining light on the importance of authenticity for all in the workplace, both leaders and followers and (2) developing a short reliable, valid instrument to measure. I hope many studies flow from this line of research.
2. How important is it that we have congruence between our roles and ourselves? I suspect it is very important to health. Katz and Kahn showed decades ago that much of our stress flows from problems related to our roles. How hard is it for us to act one way when in fact we are not like that in our core? Over time my guess is it would grow difficult – or change us. These are research questions.
3. But among the instruments we now have to assess the well-being of the workplace, we can add another. Authentic workers may be more satisfied, engaged, and healthy but to what degree can the organization make a difference?
(1) Realistic job previews. Help potential recruits know what the culture is really like.
(2) Annual Quality of Worklife surveys. Do them. Use them. Show employees they make a difference in improving working conditions.
(3) Good training of supervisors and development of managers.
4. Organizations need authentic leaders who recognize the value of authenticity at all levels.
Katz, D., & Kahn, R.L. (1978). The social psychology of organizations (2nd. ed.). New York: Wiley.
Van den Bosch, R., & Taris, T. W. (2014). Authenticity at work: Development and validation of an individual authenticity measure at work, Journal of Happiness Studies, 15, 1-18.
"Authenticity." © John Ballard, 2014
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Decoding the Workplace: 50 Keys to Understanding People in Organizations, coming in May,