Adobe Stock / Fairygodboss Staff
Being successful has not always meant being authentic, especially in the workplace and even more so for women. As we move into an age where authenticity is rewarded and bringing who you are outside of work to your workplace makes a difference, here are some ways to ensure that you don’t get lost in the corporate hustle — especially while working remotely.
Your ideas are good, so share them. Ask yourself if you're limiting your creativity because you have an inherent idea of how things have always been done or that you should follow the script that's been set out. If you have ideas about how to make your workplace more efficient, more energized, more inclusive or more creative, have respect and compassion for those ideas. The group may not proceed with every single idea you share, but you’ve genuinely brought your authentic self to work because you’re channeling your own real creativity.
We’ve all been in meetings where certain people dominate the conversation and steamroll everyone else. One of the easiest ways to join these conversations is to ask an open-ended question about the conversation and the solutions being discussed. The basic format of a really helpful question is, “Are we missing anything? Are there any other ideas that we could consider here?”
When someone brings that type of energy into a conversation, they immediately offer something valuable and become an important player in not only this conversation but in the overall workplace setting. So if you don't have any ideas to share at the moment, just listen and be ready with an open-ended question about other possibilities. This is a powerful strategy to help you feel like you’ve contributed in an authentic, genuine way. And, of course, it’s a great option to have on standby if someone asks you a question and you don’t have new feedback.
It's important during Zoom calls that you look directly into the camera so other participants feel seen by you and so you can see their reactions. It's perfectly fine to look away from the camera and look at other people's faces; however, the other participants can see across the screen whether your eyes are really focused and seeing them, or whether they're glazed over and darting between different windows on your computer. If you want to feel and appear authentically present to your colleagues at work, one of the best things you can do is really look directly at them on a screen.
As a voice coach, I know this is easier said than done. But there’s a noticeable difference between someone who sounds vocally authentic versus someone who doesn't. An attentive person lets their voice change pitch and tone dynamic, unlike someone who's stuck in an intonation pattern. If you're speaking in a monotone way, staying really low in your pitch range, or you're never using your higher range, people can more easily tune you out and not feel like you're authentically, genuinely engaged. To be able to use your voice with dynamic inflection is a really powerful way to show you’re engaged and interested.
A hot tip for how to practice this: If you're getting stuck and you're not sure if you're using a lot of vocal inflections, take a break and read a children's book out loud for a couple of pages. When you come back to work, voila! Your voice will be more dynamic.
The traditional idea around workplace professionalism is that we should stay focused on the work that we're doing and on the task at hand. However, more companies are seeing how cultural issues affect each of our workplaces. So, if you were inspired by a book you recently read, a podcast, a new song, or any other experience that resonated with you, bringing those ideas into work is a great way to ignite creativity and energize everyone else to think outside the box. It’s also a way to leave your own mark on your work.
This extends to your own cultural, racial and ethnic background. One of the best ways we can move in the direction of true diversity, equity and inclusion is to share our individual influences at work rather than turning them off. Our lens can be uniquely valuable.
An unspoken rule of professionalism is that workers — especially women — should not show emotion in the office. I'm really grateful to see that idea dying because we are humans and we experience emotions all the time. On certain occasions, we should keep those emotions to ourselves. Other times, expressing those emotions is the most powerful way to move through a challenge and be able to collaborate effectively in the future.
For instance, if your boss sends an email instructing you to redo a project from the beginning, you may feel angry, sad or frustrated. If you recognize those feelings, then having an honest, vulnerable conversation with your boss and acknowledging your emotions is a great way to resolve them. The most appropriate way to express your emotions is to use “I” statements so you don’t project your experience on anyone else. You're just saying how you felt.
We often sacrifice our own wardrobe expression and creativity for the sake of what we “think” is appropriate work attire. Certainly, if there are uniforms or dress codes, you should follow them (unless they’re totally oppressive). But wearing bright colors or a fun blouse instead of a grey blazer is a professional way to express yourself. If something helps you feel more vibrant and energized throughout the day, do yourself and everyone else around you the favor of wearing it. Doing so presents yourself in a way that really feels genuine and authentic to you. Having blue or pink or purple hair doesn't make you unprofessional (I said what I said!).
All of us get burned out and tired, especially with Zoom fatigue. Do not feel bad if you need to turn off your camera, walk away from your computer for a few hours or take a mental health day. This is actually a really incredible way for us to model for each other and signal that burnout culture isn’t feasible. It is authentic to burn out, but you don't need to bring that energy to work. Go take some rest and come back when you feel energized.
Keep in mind that your employees or colleagues may have different needs for rest. We have to honor our own unique needs when it comes to communication, scheduling, and workloads. There are many of us who experience neurodivergence around how we engage with our work. So be compassionate and aware of yourself about the ways that you work best. Do not be afraid to advocate for yourself so that you can do your best work. Try to be cognizant that other people might have different patterns than you, so be respectful and open to compromise.
While each of us requires a different method to stay engaged in our work and feels the need to show our value, bringing your authentic self will differentiate you as a leader in both work ethic and honoring your body. This model is really what defines leadership, and furthermore, success.
This article was written by a Fairygodboss contributor.
Elissa is a vocal health, presence, and confidence coach with over a decade of experience. She specializes in training entrepreneurs to authentically pitch themselves and their businesses. She's been the resident public speech trainer for WeWork in NY/NJ/CT, and led workshops for Equinox, Microsoft, eBay, Instacart, and more. Her clients include Broadway stars, television personalities, politicians, and CEOs. Elissa is the Founder and CEO of Voice Body Connection, and pioneered the Voice Body Connection process to help people connect to their voice with confidence and express their passion and purpose to the world. Connect with Elissa and hear her podcast "Find Your Voice, Speak Your Truth" at www.voicebodyconnection.com.
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