Can Organizations Handle the Truth? Authenticity at Work Today

37 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2018 Last revised: 11 Sep 2018

See all articles by James Smith, Jr.

James Smith, Jr.

Temple University Fox School of Business

Deanna Geddes

Temple University - Department of Human Resource Management; Temple University - Organizational Behavior

Date Written: August 15, 2018

Abstract

Is authenticity a characteristic that is truly valued and encouraged by managers and leaders in the workplace? What does it mean to be "authentic" at work today? Do people even want to bring their “whole self” to work? To better understand the concept of authenticity in the workplace, interviews were conducted with managers and non-managers in large organizations whose mission statements and core values overtly encourage employees to express their authentic selves. In particular, eleven semi-structured interviews with employees from organizations in diverse industries (e.g., financial services; pharmaceutical; residential/corporate moving and storage; energy) were conducted, transcribed, and manually coded and analyzed. Preliminary analysis revealed diverse definitions of work authenticity including, “keeping your word if you say you’re going to do something”; “being your true self”; “showing emotion intelligently”; “not being filled with guile”; “being/behaving as much of yourself that you are willing to give without being someone else”; “no ambiguity and not willing to do anything outside of your values” among others--revealing a complex conceptual landscape. In addition, results indicated a limited range in which an employee can express authenticity (demarcated by self and other-imposed “thresholds”) such that both individual and organizational factors contribute to one's ability and willingness to express authenticity at work. Specifically, organization’s culture, relationship with one’s manager, and perceptions that authenticity enhances work experience, professional growth and development, appear to affect employee authentic expression at work. This research offers a definition and an initial framework for understanding authenticity in the workplace that can spawn further research on this underexplored area of organizational behavior.

Keywords: culture, transparency, leadership, values, retaliation, communication, trust, fear, DTM

Suggested Citation

Smith, Jr., James and Geddes, Deanna, Can Organizations Handle the Truth? Authenticity at Work Today (August 15, 2018). 2018 Engaged Management Scholarship Conference: Philadelphia, PA; Fox School of Business Research Paper No. 18-028. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3240913 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3240913

James Smith, Jr. (Contact Author)

Temple University Fox School of Business ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

Deanna Geddes

Temple University - Department of Human Resource Management ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

Temple University - Organizational Behavior

Philadelphia, PA
United States

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